Oil spills in aquatic environments, be they rivers or the sea, can have a devastating effect on the local environments, causing mass death of all the aquatic life in the area, including birds and mammals who rely on these bodies of water.
The clean of these spills can be a time consuming and hit-and-miss affair that often takes months or even years to complete. However researchers at Ohio State University have created a unique new solution to the problems, and developed a special stainless steel mesh which is with microscopic particles that repel oil but allow the complete pass through of water.
The resulting material allows the easy separation of an oil-water mixture by allowing the water to pass through the mesh, whilst the oil is trapped at the surface by the repelling nature of the material. The oil can then therefore be easily collected and removed. This ground breaking material shows significant promise is dealing with future oil spills and can also be used to detect oil in underground water sources.
Researchers create the mesh by spraying the stainless steel base with silica nanoparticles. These nanoparticles are then coated with surfactants – the typical component of detergents. This rough micro-surface of surfactants repels the oils, whilst having no effect on water. The materials were chosen, in part, due to their low cost and also the fact that they are non-toxic, making the perfect for use in aquatic environments. The researchers believe the mesh could be manufactured for as little as $1 per square foot with large scale production.
Our Stainless Steel kitchen work surfaces might not separate oil from water, but they are so much easier to keep clean that a traditional wooden surface.
Ref: IFL Science