Due to broken storage tanks and oil pipes, oil tanker collisions and accidents in offshore oil technology, oil spills are still a substantial environmental threat to marine ecosystems today. Although considerable efforts have been made to develop materials to absorb or adsorb the spread oil, these materials usually have major drawbacks such as long absorbing times, easy release of adsorbed low-viscosity fractions or high production costs.
Mike Chung and coworkers, The Pennsylvania State University, USA, have prepared a terpolymer of 1-octene, styrene and divinylbenzene with a heterogeneous Ziegler-Natta catalyst. Subsequent thermal crosslinking via vinyl moieties resulted in a material with an amorphous, three-dimensional structure and high swelling capacity. As the hydrophobic polymer side chains prevent any water uptake, the oil-swelled polymer floats on the water surface, which ensures its easy recovery and might even allow recycling the absorbed oil by separating it from the polymer in regular oil-refining processes.
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