Jenna: MIT researchers have created a nanowire membrane that could be used to clean up oil spills. The membrane is no thinker than a piece of paper and is made from a web of potassium manganese oxide nanowires. When dipped into a mixture of water and oil, the membrane can absorb 20 times its weight in oil.
Typically, oil spills are cleaned up using the same basic technology used 20 years ago, using absorbent materials such as hay and cellulose that can soak up between 3 and 15 times their weight in oil, or synthetic polymer-based sorbents can absorb up to 70 times their weight. The problem with these materials is that they also absorb water. The nanomembrane however, is superhydrophobic, which means it strongly repels water. Therefore, when applied to an oil spill, say in an ocean situation, the nanomembrane will discriminately soak up the oil and not the water.
Originally published on Blog@NanoVic for Nanotechnology Victoria.