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Published on February 12th, 2009 | by Ariel Schwartz


Scientists: "Frozen Smoke" is the Ultimate Tool for Cleaning Up Oil Spills

February 12th, 2009 by  

The American Chemical Society reports that aerogel or “frozen smoke” may be the holy grail of sponges for capturing oil from wastewater and soaking up oil spills. Unlike other costly and inefficient sponges, hydrophobic silica aerogels are both highly porous and absorbent.

According to the ACS Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research journal, scientists packed small aerogel beads into a vertical column and exposed them to flowing water containing soybean oil as a simulation of filtration at a wastewater treatment plant. The results were impressive— the aerogel beads absorbed up to 7 times their weight and removed oil from the wastewater at a high efficiency.

The scientists’ discovery will be instrumental in cleaning up the 200 million gallons of used oil that gets dumped into sewers, streams, and backyards each year— not to mention high-profile oil spills like the Exxon Valdez incident.

Photo Credit: ACS 


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About the Author

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.

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