There has been no lack of research in looking for the best solution to clean up oil spills. However, a recent discovery could be the first to utilize waste from the oil industry itself.
Researchers from Flinders University have created a new polymer using by-products of the petroleum and refining industries. The new absorbent polymer — made from used cooking oil, sodium chloride and sulfur — can quickly soak up oil from sea water.
The resulting low-density polymer is naturally hydrophobic so it can soak up crude oil and diesel while repelling water. When the substance was poured onto oil floating in water during tests, the polymer acted like a sponge and absorbed the oil within a minute.
When the oil is squeezed out of the polymer substance, it can be used again to soak up more oil several times. Researchers say this is a new class of oil sorbents that is low-cost, scalable and enables the efficient removal and recovery of oil from water.