Scientists have invented a new sponge that could potentially help clean up oil spills.
Called Oleo Sponge, the material looks like an outdoor seat cushion, can be wrung out to be reused and the oil recovered, according to the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.
At tests at a giant seawater tank at the National Oil Spill Response Research & Renewable Energy Test Facility, the sponge is said to have successfully collected diesel and crude oil from both below and on the water surface.
Researchers say the sponge could also potentially be used routinely to clean harbours and ports, where diesel and oil tend to accumulate from ship traffic.
Co-inventor Seth Darling, a fellow of the University of Chicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering said: “The Oleo Sponge offers a set of possibilities that, as far as we know, are unprecedented.
“The material is extremely sturdy. We’ve run dozens to hundreds of tests, wringing it out each time and we have yet to see it break down at all. The technique offers enormous flexibility and can be adapted to other types of clean-up besides oil in seawater. You could attach a different molecule to grab any specific substance you need.”
The team is looking to commercialise the material and inviting those interested in licensing the technology or collaborating with the laboratory on further development.