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Boron nitride, or "white graphene", can soak up organic pollutants such as industrial chemicals or engine oil in incredible amounts for their size, according to a report in Nature Communications.
A material capable of absorbing up to 33 times its own weight in oils and organic solvents has been developed by scientists in Australia.
The clean-up of oil spills has historically been an expensive and lengthy process, and recent large-scale spillages – such as that from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in 2010 – highlighted the urgent need for new and reliable water cleaning techniques. Freshwater supplies are also at risk of contamination with organic solvents and dyes discharged by the textile, tannery and paper industries.
A next-generation material first earmarked for use in electronics has proven itself a capable clean-up agent for polluted waters.