Wrapping sponges in graphene nanoribbons allows for Joule heating to help clean up oil spills

phys.org | 4/4/2017 | Staff
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(Phys.org)—A team of researchers with the University of Science and Technology of China has found a way to make sponges used to clean up oil spills in the ocean work better when soaking up heavy crude oil. In their paper published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the team describes how they wrapped polymeric sponges in graphene nanoribbons and then applied an electric current to cause the sponge to absorb the normally thick oil. Despina Fragouli and Athanassia Athanassiou with Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Italy offer a News and Views piece on the work done by the team in the same journal issue.

Oil spills are, of course, a serious problem with extracting oil from the ground or from beneath the ocean and shipping it for use in another location. Oil spills cause a lot of damage to the local ecosystem that can last for many years. In recent years, oil spills have happened less often, but when they do occur, they are worse than before due to the type of oil that is spilled. As medium and light crude oil reserves have been depleted, oil companies have turned to extracting heavy oil, which is more difficult to work with because it is so thick it does not flow very well—it also has low sorption, which means it is not pulled into sponges like other oils when it is spilled. In this new effort, the researchers have found a way to make conventional sponges better at pulling in such oils when leaks occur.

Technique - Sponges - Nanoribbons

The new technique involves covering traditional sponges with graphene nanoribbons and then...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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