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A Complete Solution For Oil-Spill Cleanup

Scientists are describing what may be a “complete solution” to cleaning up – a superabsorbent material that sops up 40 times its own weight in oil and then can be shipped to an and processed to recover the oil. Their article on the material appears in ACS’ journal Energy & Fuels.

T. and out that current methods for coping with oil spills like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster are low-tech, decades-old and have many disadvantages. Corncobs, straw and other absorbents, for instance, can hold only about 5 times their own weight and pick up water, as well as oil. Those materials then become industrial waste that must be disposed of in special landfills or burned.

Their solution is a polymer material that transforms an into a soft, solid oil-containing gel. One pound of the material can recover about 5 gallons of . The gel is strong enough to be collected and transported. Then, it can be converted to a liquid and refined like regular . That oil would be worth $15 when sells for $100 a barrel. “Overall, this cost-effective new polyolefin oil-SAP technology shall dramatically reduce the environmental impacts from oil spills and help recover one of our most precious natural resources,” the authors said.


The authors acknowledge funding from the National Science Foundation and Ben Franklin Technology Partners.

“A Novel Solution to Oil Spill Recovery; Using Thermodegradable Polyolefin Oil Super-absorbent (oil-SAP)”

American Chemical Society – Energy & Fuels