Cleaning Oil Spills

Smart sponge soaks up oil without harming marine life

Credit: Dravid Group

Oil spill clean-up is an expensive and complicated process that often harms marine life and further damages the environment.

With an ability to absorb more than 30 times its weight in oil, this “smart sponge” could be used to inexpensively and efficiently clean up oil spills without harming marine life. After squeezing the oil out of the sponge, it can be reused many dozens of times without losing its effectiveness.

The secret lies in a nanocomposite coating of magnetic nanostructures and a carbon-based substrate that is oleophilic (attracts oil), hydrophobic (resists water) and magnetic.

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Removing Air and Water Pollution

Nanomaterials destroy toxic gases and remove water pollutants

Credit: Farha Group

Nanomaterials have shown incredible promise for purifying water and removing toxic gases from the air we breathe.

For example, by combining a metal-organic framework (MOF) nanomaterial (shown above) with textile fibers, one research team was able to detoxify toxic gases, including some of the most dangerous chemical agents in existence: VX and soman (GD), a more toxic relative of sarin.

Another team of researchers has discovered and commercialized cyclodextrin polymer adsorbent materials that showed outstanding promise in eliminating water pollutants including lead, PFAS, and agrochemicals.

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