What it is: Researchers from the Argonne National Laboratory developed a polyurethane foam-based sponge that can collect oil from bodies of water. The interior surface of the sponge uses its oleophilic molecules to draw oil out of water -- and to ensure the oil molecules stuck to the sponge, researchers infused metal oxide with nanostructures to act as a primer. As a result of this technique, the sponge can absorb up to 90 times its weight in oil, and can even be used again after the oil is wrung out. Argonne is actively seeking a licensing or collaboration agreement to commercialize and market the material in under five years.
Why it's important: Today's oil spill cleanup methods present a myriad of issues when removing oil from beneath the water's surface. Instead of having to use chemicals in the water in trickier removal situations, the durability and multi-use nature of the Oleo sponge could be the clean, efficient solution to fight devastating spills. The application of these novel materials could greatly improve harbor maintenance and oil spill response in the future.
Seen in Peter Diamandis news.