New material that could absorb large-scale oil spills


Boron Nitride Nanosheet. Image Credit: Deakin University
Boron Nitride Nanosheet. Image Credit: Deakin University
Scientists at Deakin and Drexel Universities have created a smart new material that absorbs oil, opening up the possibility of a solution to oil spill disasters.

Boron Nitride Nanosheets are super light sheets that can absorb up to 33 times its own weight in oils and organic solvents. After two decades of refinement in the lab the Nanosheets are now ready for industry testing.

“Oil spills are a global problem and wreak havoc on our aquatic ecosystems, not to mention cost billions of dollars in damage. Everyone remembers the Gulf Coast disaster, but here in Australia they are a regular problem, and not just in our waters. Oil spills from trucks and other vehicles can close freeways for an entire day, again amounting to large economic losses”

Professor Ying Chen explained to Nanowerk.

In the first stage of the project the scientists had developed the material in powder form but needed some innovation to manufactor the material into one that could be used to combine spills, and most importantly separate spills from water. Enter Drexel’s College of Engineering, who has helped engineer the powder into ultra-thin gel nanosheets, making a much more viable product for real-world application.

The nanosheet, which acts like a sponge on a minute scale, has the capacity to increase its surface area per gram to the size of five and a half tennis courts. This exciting new material is giving hope to communities, companies and virtually everyone with concerns about the environmental impact of oil spills.

Development of the material at Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials was made possible by support from the Australian Research Council.




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