Web Date: June 4, 2008
Nanowire Membrane Sops Up Oil
When placed on an oil spill, a thin nanowire mesh membrane selectively absorbs the oil and leaves water behind, researchers have found. The superhydrophobic manganese oxide-polymer composite, created by Francesco Stellacci at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and coworkers, can trap up to 20 times its weight in oil and is recyclable, making it a viable option for environmental cleanup (Nat. Nanotechnol., DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2008.136).
The research team synthesized the "oleophilic" membrane material by heating manganese oxide nanowires with polydimethysiloxane, cross-linking silicon with the manganese oxide. When the membrane is placed in a mixture of oil and water, it repels water while its rough surface acts like a paper towel to absorb the oil. Capillary action augments the absorption by drawing the oil deep into the interstitial spaces between the nanowires, a process Stellacci calls "selective superabsorbance."
The durable membranes can withstand harsh conditions, which improves their suitability for use in oil spill cleanup. The team has shown that the membranes can be cleaned by ultrasonic washing and autoclaving and can be reused.
The nanowire membrane technology could have broad appeal as a commercial solution for cleaning up oil spills, the researchers note.
- Chemical & Engineering News
- ISSN 0009-2347
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