We all know the massive amounts of oil that poured into the Gulf of Mexico during the Macondo deep-water oil spill of 2010. Since then scientists have been working overtime trying to come up with unique ways to remove oil from water.
Researchers at Rice University and Penn State University may be on to something. They found that adding a little bit of boron to carbon when creating nanotubes produces a squishy, solid sponge that can repeatedly absorb more than a hundred times its weight in oil that is dispersed in water. Apparently the boron puts kinks and elbows into the nanotubes as they grow and promotes the formation of chemical bonds, which give the sponges their robust qualities. What is even better is that they consist of 99% air and can float on water. Given that the scale of oil spills is so large, the researchers note that the sponge can easily be scaled up in size to create sheets large enough to use in oil spill situations. In addition, the material can be compressed and the soaked up oil recovered. Afterward, the sponge can be reused. Sounds pretty promising. A YouTube video of lab experiment explaining the technology is also available.