Skip to comments.Mopping up oil spills with marshmallows (flexible aerogels)
Posted on 01/28/2013 8:46:48 PM PST by neverdem
Japanese researchers have developed a marshmallow-like material that can mop up hydrocarbons like a sponge and can then be wrung out.1 The work could one day lead to a cheap and simple solution for cleaning up large oil spills such as one that decimated the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
Although similar materials have been made before, they have had shortcomings for large-scale clean-up operations including a lack of hydrophobicity, difficult or expensive production methods and an inability to be reused. Now, researchers at Kyoto University have made marshmallow-like macroporous gels that are free from all of these drawbacks.
'We first measured fundamental properties of the porous material, such as density, porosity, pore size and volume, mechanical properties and the surface property,' says co-author Kazuyoshi Kanamori. 'During the course of these measurements, we hit upon the idea of soaking up oils because the marshmallow is hydrophobic and flexible. We tested the separation of hexane and water first and hexane was absorbed completely while the amount of water did not change at all.'
Importantly, the oil can be squeezed out and the material reused. Experiments have also shown that it can work under harsh conditions ranging from 300˚C to -196˚C. However, the team have yet to test the material's performance on highly viscous and complex crude oils.
'We could not test absorption of real crude oil, because crude oils are not easily available,' explains Kanamori. 'We instead tested using a mineral oil that has a viscosity similar to medium crude oil. The kinetics were a bit slow, but there was no problem for absorption.'
Making the marshmallows only requires a simple and inexpensive sol-gel process using reagents that are fairly readily available. However, Kanamori says challenges remain for producing the material in bulk quantities that would be needed for an oil spill. 'You cannot produce a huge amount of the marshmallow by a continuous process,' he says. 'So, in the case where you need huge amounts of the marshmallow for tonnes of oil spilled from an offshore oil well or from a large ship accident, producing the marshmallow in limited time is difficult.'
However, there could be other applications. 'Dealing with oil spills is by no means the only potential application for these materials,' comments Peter Budd a polymer chemistry expert at the University of Manchester, UK. 'There are many situations where there is a need to remove organic compounds from an aqueous medium, including the treatment of wastewater from industrial processes and there is potential to use chemistry to tailor these materials for a wide range of separations.'
1 G Hayase et al, Angew. Chemie., Int. Ed., 2013, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201207969
2 G Hayase, K Kanamori and K Nakanishi, J. Mater. Chem., 2011, 21, 17077 (DOI: 10.1039/C1JM13664J)
It's amazing the wonderful creation that God gave us an all that we can do with it.
I'd post the same thing if someone posted about greenish rocks that could be burned and produced copper. But FR isn't that old. ;)
If only they could mop up radiated water and the like.
Otherwise, great for us, we need as many as possible down to the Gulf of Mexico.
Sounds like Mocchi
There are several groups, including the Japanese, working to extract Uranium from seawater. If that can be done economically, then the world can run on nuclear power for the next 10,000 years.
THAT idea would have cost next to nothing.
Advanced tech marshmallows will cost money and will be seriously considered ?
What the heck! That is a brilliantly smart and simple clean up solution! Why didn’t we do this? Government is so useless sometimes.
But the government FEMA/EPA flunkies for whom they did the demo, basically said "Don't call us, we'll call you..." And that was the last I heard of it.
Sadly, at that time there was a surplus of new hay, and growers were at a loss as to how to get rid of the old hay.
If you want something screwed up -- bring in the U.S. government!
I think this statement is the key. Don't know if you'd be able to effectively do this with hay.
Probably not 100% perfect, but enough to at least pay for whatever expense may have been accrued GETTING the stuff.
Can also be used in 10W-40W Hot Chocolate.