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Saturday, 21 September 2019
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Raw materials & technologies, Technologies, Functional coatings

Smart coating could make oil-spill cleanup more efficient

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Scientists have developed coatings that can separate oil and water.

Self-cleaning and anti-fogging functions are one advantage of the new separating coating Source: Nano X

Self-cleaning and anti-fogging functions are one advantage of the new separating coating Source: Nano X

The researchers point out that oil-spill cleanup crews often use absorbents, like clays, straw and wool to sop up oil, but these materials aren’t very efficient because they also sop up a lot of water. Extra steps and equipment also are needed to remove the oil from the absorbent, which is difficult to do on a ship.

Separation was instantaneous

Recently, scientists from Durham University, UK, have turned their attention to new smart materials called "oleophobic-hydrophilic” coatings that instead let the water through and repel the oil. However, the films that have been reported so far take several minutes to do the separation, are complicated to make or aren’t very good at repelling oil. So, the researchers set out to improve these materials and developed oleophobic-hydrophilic coatings that they applied to pieces of metal mesh, just like what’s used in screen doors. When they poured an oil-water mixture onto it, the water dripped through into the container below, while the oil remained perched atop the mesh surface. Then, they simply tilted the mesh so the oil went into another container. The separation was instantaneous and more efficient than existing films, and it only took one step to make the coating. The team also demonstrated that it could serve as an anti-fogging and self-cleaning film.

The study is published in: ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

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