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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