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A material in development could help recover spilled oil by solidifying it into a solid gel floating on the ocean's surface. Oil in a solid state could be scooped away like fat congealed on the top of a pot of soup. The gel could then be melted and the oil separated from the material, which could be reused.
"The gelling is happening instantaneously," John said.
When they hit water, the molecules create a sponge-like network of fibers that strongly attract oil and repel water. The oil is drawn into the fiber network, swelling the "sponge." The resulting oil-swollen gel is strong enough to be scooped up with a slotted spoon.
The new material is made of non-toxic components used in food
and not Nalco. Unless they are able to buy the patent, big oil will not use anything that's not theirs.
A team led by George John of the City College of New York and Srinivasa Raghavan of the University of Maryland