These wood sponges are the future of oil spill cleanup efforts
Oil spills can wreak absolute havoc on ocean and coastal ecosystems. When toxic oil comes into contact with plant and animal life, the result is nothing short of disastrous. In the unfortunate event of a spill, it is of utmost importance that the oil is removed from the water as rapidly as possible. The longer the oil is in the water, the more destruction it causes.
In working to find a solution to oil spills, researches have created sponges made from wood that selectively absorb oil. Once the wood sponges have absorbed oil, they can be squeezed out and used again and again.
The wood sponges are made from specially treated balsa wood in which the wood’s structure is modified to become more porous. The modified balsa structure also attracts oil – but not water.
In the lab tests that are shown in the GIFS, the beakers contain a mixture of water and silicone oil (the red substance). When the sponge is introduced to the mixture, it removes all of the oil and leaves the clean water in the beaker.
In the lab tests, the sponge was able to absorb 16 to 41 times its own weight (this depended on the type of oil being tested).
According to the researchers, the modified balsa wood sponge also could endure at least ten cycles of absorption and squeezing.
The balsa sponges have not been implemented at a larger scale at this point in time; however, if their development continues successfully moving forward, they can certainly help in the cleanup efforts of oil spill disasters.