A Sponge to Clean Up Oil Spills

A Sponge to Clean Up Oil Spills

Author: Sarah Millar

An oil spill needs timely cleanup before it spreads and poses a serious environmental threat to the polluted area. Large-scale cleanup techniques need to be both efficient and cost-effective. Sponge-like sorbents have displayed outstanding oil sorption performance. In particular, highly porous carbonaceous sponges have demonstrated a lot of potential. However, large-scale use of carbonaceous sponges is restricted by the complex and costly fabrication process.

Darren Sun, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and co-workers have overcome this by fabricating a sponge made of carbon-silica nanofibers by using electrospinning in conjunction with thermal treatment. Such a fabrication process is advantageous because electrospinning is versatile, inexpensive, and easily scalable.
The sponge displayed a fast uptake rate for various kinds of petroleum-derived products and organic solvents and had a maximum sorption capacity up to 140 g g–1. The sponge was particularly suitable for the selective removal of oil from water owing to its inherent hydrophobicity, oleophilicitiy, and high porosity (>99 %). In addition, the sponge had good mechanical stability and compressibility, which means that the pollutants could be recovered and the sponge regenerated by simple squeezing or cyclic distillation.


 

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