Scientist develops sponge to soak up oil-contaminated water

Date:20 December 2019 Author: Kyro Mitchell Tags:, , ,

Drilling and fracking for oil in off-shore locations has lead to the contamination of thousands of kilometers of ocean water by releasing tiny droplets of oil into the surrounding waters. To combat this ever growing problem researchers from the University of Toronto and Imperial College of London have developed a sponge capable of removing over 90% of oil-droplets from waste water.

The team of researchers say that when the sponge is placed into contaminated waters, oil coats the surface of the sponge ‘like a thin film’ through the process of absorption. Once the sponge has absorbed a certain amount of oil, it can be treated with a special solvent to release the oil, which can then be recycled and used again.

This current version of the sponge is able to remove 90% of contamination’s in just 10 minutes in bodies of water that have varying pH levels. The first iteration of the sponge was more efficient than the current version, removing up to 95% of contamination’s in a body of water, but needed three hours to do so and only functioned in waters with a certain pH level.

“We manipulated (the sponge) to make droplets cling on tight. It’s all about strategically selecting the characteristics of the pores and their surfaces.” Said lead author, Dr Pavani Cherukupally from the London’s Imperial college.

The team hopes that they can use the sponge to perform a variety of tasks like treating other types of contaminated water or removing bacteria from saltwater during the process of distillation.

Feature image: pixabay

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