Modern history has seen an unfortunate amount of oil spills. Anyone who can make sense of the news today will probably know that oil spills leave a lasting impact and the cleanup efforts can take longer than in one’s imagination. Moreover, these efforts are never enough to reverse the damage, nor are they saving enough, often owing to a lack of effective resources. However, two recent development may point towards the possibility of better cleanup efforts in the future.
The first of these is that scientists from the Netherlands have developed a recyclable membrane that can be used to clean up oil from water, thus making it potentially prominent in the case of oil spills. The polymer membrane is said to have been made from biobased malic acid. Being recyclable, the membrane can be depolymerized, cleaned, and then pressed into a new membrane once its pores are blocked during the process.
However, this development is currently not up to its full potential for practical use. While the team suggests that it works well in laboratory conditions, it is not strengthened enough for use outside of it. Factors such as algae and sand could cause the membrane pores to clog up easily.
“We have tested this on a laboratory scale of a few square centimetres,” says Katja Loos from the University of Groningen. “And we are confident that our methods are scalable, both for the polymer synthesis and for the production and recycling of the membrane.”
The scientists are hoping that an industrial partner will take up further development. The paper detailing this development has been published in the Advanced Materials journal.
On the other hand, researchers at the NCSU have shed light on a biofilm that is created by certain bacteria for protective and locomotive purposes. Made of cellulose, they suggest that this can be used to clean contaminated waters, as it may be effective in separating water from oil. The results of this study have been published in the Langmuir journal.
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