Nanocellulose sponges to combat oil pollution

A new, absorbable material from Empa wood research could be of assistance in future oil spill accidents: a chemically modified nanocellulose sponge. The light material absorbs the oil spill, remains floating on the surface and can then be recovered. The absorbent can be produced in an environmentally-friendly manner from recycled paper, wood or agricultural by-products.

 

All industrial nations need large volumes of oil which is normally delivered by ocean-going tankers or via inland waterways to its destination. The most environmentally-friendly way of cleaning up nature after an oil spill accident is to absorb and recover the floating film of oil. The Empa researchers Tanja Zimmermann and Philippe Tingaut, in collaboration with Gilles Sèbe from the University of Bordeaux, have now succeeded in developing a highly absorbent material which separates the oil film from the water and can then be easily recovered, "silylated" nanocellulose sponge.

In laboratory tests the sponges absorbed up to 50 times their own weight of mineral oil or engine oil. They kept their shape to such an extent that they could be removed with pincers from the water. The next step is to fine tune the sponges so that they can be used not only on a laboratory scale but also in real disasters. To this end, a partner from industry is currently seeked.

 

Original Literature

Zhang Z., Sèbe G., Rentsch D., Zimmermann T., Tingaut P. (2014). Ultralightweight and Flexible Silylated Nanozellulose Sponges for the Selective Removal of Oil from Water. Chem. Mater., 2014, 26 (8), pp 2659–2668. DOI: 10.1021/cm5004164.

 

More information can be found here.

 

Contact

Empa - Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science & Technology
Department Applied WoodMaterials

  • Dr. Philippe Tingaut , Tel. +41 58 765 47 49 , This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Dr. Tanja Zimmermann; Tel. +41 58 765 41 15, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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