09 June 2010

A Remarkable Scientific Quick-Clean Solution to Oil Slicks

An engineering professor at the University of Pittsburgh has devised a novel quick filtering approach to cleaning up surface oil slicks -- such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico. It involves a cotton filter that has been coated with a chemical polymer that allows the passage of water, but blocks the passage of oils.
The researcher reports that the filter was successfully tested off the coast of Louisiana and shown to simultaneously clean water and preserve the oil.

Di Gao, an assistant professor and William Kepler Whiteford Faculty Fellow in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering in Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering, created his filter as a possible method to help manage the spreading oil slick that resulted from the April 20 explosion of BP's "Deepwater Horizon" drilling platform. Gao has submitted his idea through the Deepwater Horizon Response Web site managed by the consortium of companies and government agencies overseeing the disaster response.

Gao's filter hinges on a polymer that is both hydrophilic -- it bonds with the hydrogen molecules in water -- and oleophobic, meaning that it repels oil. When the polymer is applied to an ordinary cotton filter, it allows water to pass through but not oil. The filter is produced by submerging the cotton in a liquid solution containing the polymer then drying it in an oven or in open air, Gao explained.
For the massive slick off the U.S. Gulf Coast, Gao envisions large, trough-shaped filters that could be dragged through the water to capture surface oil. The oil could be recovered and stored and the filter reused. Current cleanup methods range from giant containment booms and absorbent skimmers to controlled fires and chemical dispersants with questionable effects on human health and the environment. _SD

Gao has several other inventions to his credit which will be useful in real world situations. Researchers such as Gao are a saving counterpoint to the uselessness of academics in other departments, such as the social and political sciences, and in queer and ethnic studies.

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Blogger Moiety said...

Not really much news here; hydrophobic membranes have been around for 20 years.

The flux here (water passing through the water) seems extraordinary high; higher than my coffee filter which I would suggest is unrealistic. The real question is the lifetime of the membrane and the re usability of the membrane.

If this does turn out to be true then Mr Gao can revolutionary many oil production processes where water removal is necessary.

Thursday, 10 June, 2010  
Blogger gtg723y said...

Its hydrophilic, meaning it absorbs water as a means to maintain its own chemical structure. And it ts news, instead of BP paying shrimpers not to shrimp the can pay shrimpers to drag filters through the water, giving the fisherman another source of income involving their boats.

Thursday, 10 June, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Gao's filter hinges on a polymer that is both hydrophilic -- it bonds with the hydrogen molecules in water -- and oleophobic, meaning that it repels oil.

The dual actions of hydrophilia and oleophobia appear to give it an advantage for the particular use it is being touted for here.

Moiety: You are probably right that industry will have a lot more uses for this polymer if it works as advertised.

gtg723y: Yes, I think all of us are getting tired of the deluge of negativity coming from the media, the activists, the politicians, and the trial lawyers. A bit of positive news promoting the "can-do" spirit seems to be called for.

Thursday, 10 June, 2010  

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