International scientists have created a ground-breaking new sponge made from wood that could one day be used to clean up environmentally damaging spills of oil and other greasy contaminants.
The novel sponge can be squeezed out and reused, is biodegradable and made from renewable resources.
The developers believe the creation could offer a cheap, efficient and non-harmful solution for mopping up oil leaks and greasy discharges in rivers and oceans.
Numerous innovative techniques have already been invented to clean oily water, from gravity separation to burning and bioremediation using bacteria.
But many of these methods are highly expensive, have limited efficiency or cause secondary pollution.
Xiaoqing Wang and colleagues at the American Chemical Society created the sponge by treating natural balsa wood with chemicals to reduce it to a cellulose skeleton, then adding a hydrophobic coating that attracts oil but not water.
Tested in a mixture of water and silicone oil, it removed all the oil. It has the ability to absorb up to 41 times its own weight, and can endure at least ten cycles of absorption and squeezing.
Katie Abbott, environment manager for trade association Oil & Gas UK, said it could prove useful for the North Sea industry, which continues to seek innovative ways to address risks.
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Source: The Scotsman