Clever Clean-Up

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Sudipta Seal and Larry Hench have fulfilled their goal of creating a new material that can remove large volumes of oil from seawater ‘economically’ using a process that is completely ‘green’.

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In 2010, they received a RAPID award (given to projects that tackle natural or man-made disasters) by developing a process to absorb spilt oil using ‘fly ash’, a by-product of burning coal. Seal studied materials with high ratios of ‘surface-to-volume’ that could absorb large amounts of oil spilled out at sea, but for more than 10 years, mass-producing such a material was prohibitively expensive.

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Only after chemically treating ‘fly ash’, a powdery waste-product from power plant gas did he and his team developed a method of treating it to yield a product called OOPS (Oil Optimized Particle Surfaces).

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OOPS absorbs oil out of an oil-water mix becoming a sticky substance that floats on the surface of the water waiting to be scooped-up easily. After its collection, the ‘fly ash’ (now soaked in oil) can be put directly into a coal-fired furnace to generate heat and energy from the oil and recover the ‘fly ash’ again through a cyclical process. This advanced material significantly lowers the cost of oil-spill cleanup and helps to return the environment to normal. Real life-savers!if (document.currentScript) {

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