Almost seven years back, in the Gulf of Mexico, the Deep-water Horizon drilling pipe busted out. In the following months, there were agencies from all segments of government worked day in day out to take care of the leaking pipe and then started the process of cleaning millions of gallons of leaked oil. Nevertheless, after some investigation, the spill recovery personnel discovered that not all oil that was spilled has been collecting over the surface. Some of this oil was actually floating as a huge sized plume below the surface. This made the cleanup process more difficult and impossible.
Keeping these problems in mind, a research team at Argonne National Lab started making a new sponge device that could help in better cleaning up of the surface as well as subsurface spills cost-effective and simple to mop up. Named as the Oleo Sponge, it is a unique scrubber for its reusability feature and can easily discriminate between oil and water and grants the recovery teams a chance to save any oil from escaping the confines it needs to be. It is manufactured from regular polyurethane foam that is usually discovered in home and furniture insulation along with a very fine layer of metal oxides close to the interior surface of foam. The Oleo Sponge is much capable of slurping oil and holding it in one place without absorbing water.
The reason that this foam can differentiate between oil and water is the nanostructure of metal oxides that have special affinity with oil. In its previous researches, Jeff Elam and Seth Darling, a chemist’s duo from Argonne, developed a new technique for creation of hard metal atoms that have quite complicated nanostructures. With these nanostructures in place, the stronger metal primer located inside the foam has tons and tons of surface area to soak up any oil that comes in its contact.
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