Oil spill solution made from waste cooking oil
Absorbent polymer made from waste cooking oil and sulfur (a by-product of the petroleum industry) has the ability to clean up crude oil and diesel spills, according to new research from Flinders University.
Given that this buoyant polymer acts like a sponge to absorb the waste materials from sea water, the polymer can be squeezed to recover the oil and then re-used.
Dr Justin Chalker, Senior Lecturer in Synthetic Chemistry at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia, is leading an international research team responsible for the discovery. He is delighted that chemists are finding new ways to provide cheap and effective solutions to curb the damage caused by oil spills, and even mercury, in the environment.
Oil spills are a major global issue, with the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) reporting about 7000 tonnes of crude oil spilling from tankers into oceans in 2017 alone. A recent large oil spill off Borneo, for example, prompted Indonesian authorities to declare a state of emergency.
The international team of researchers point to the effects of recent large-scale spillage catastrophes as a potent reason driving their research — in particular, the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig in 2010 and subsequent release of approximately 4.9 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
“This is a new class of oil sorbents that is low-cost, scalable, and enables the efficient removal and recovery of oil from water,” said Chalker.
Video demonstrations of the polymer’s clean-up ability show that absorption of the pollutant happens within a minute of the solution being sprinkled onto oil covering the surface of water.
The findings are published in the new paper, Sustainable Polysulfides for Oil Spill Remediation: Repurposing Industrial Waste for Environmental Benefit, in Advanced Sustainable Systems.
The research was supported by the Australian Government National Environmental Science Program, Australian Research Council, Royal Australian Chemical Institute, Australian Microscopy and Microanalysis Research Facility, Australian National Fabrication Facility, FCT Portugal, The Royal Society, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and European Research Council.
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