Skip to main content

Researchers create super sponge for absorbing oil following a spill

sponge oil spill first2015nc photo with high res version  2
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Researchers drawn from Australia’s Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM), Philadelphia’s Drexel University, and the Missouri University of Science and Technology have created a revolutionary material designed to absorb oil like a sponge. After years of development in the laboratory, the material is ready for testing by industry professionals in the field, reports

The boron nitride-based material was first developed as a powder with incredible absorption capabilities, but a material in powder form is not effective in an oil spill. The team had to turn the powder into a sponge that could be used to absorb the oil from a spill and separate it from other components, including of course water when there is an aquatic accident. It took two years of research, funded in part by the Australian Research Council, to create the revolutionary sponge material. “We are delighted that support from the Australian Research Council allowed us to participate in this interesting study and we could help our IFM colleagues to model and better understand this wonderful material, ” said Drexel Professor Yury Gogotsi.

The team of researchers developed a new production technique that allowed them to create a nanosheet of boron nitride. Working with scientists from Drexel and Missouri University, the team was able to take the boron oxide, also know as white graphite, and break it down into atomic-sized sheets. These sheets were then were assembled into a sponge-like aerogel or absorptive membrane that is useful for oil spill cleanup The nanosheets have small pores that increase the material’s surface area exponentially such that the surface area of one gram of material is equal to the area of 5.5 tennis courts. This immense surface area allows the sponge to absorb up to 33 times its own weight.

Not only is it absorptive, the boron nitride nanosheets also can withstand flame, are resistant to burning, and can be used in flexible materials such as electrical and heat insulation. Now that the material has been put through its paces in the laboratory, the Australian team is ready to test it in the field the next time an oil spill threatens a waterway, a roadway, or any other ecologically sensitive area.

Kelly Hodgkins
Kelly's been writing online for ten years, working at Gizmodo, TUAW, and BGR among others. Living near the White Mountains of…
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more
This bracelet helps you fall asleep faster and sleep longer

This content was produced in partnership with Apollo Neuroscience.
Have you been struggling to get the recommended seven hours of sleep? It's always frustrating when you get in bed at a reasonable time, then toss and turn for a hours before you actually sleep. The quality of that sleep is important too. If you're waking up multiple times during the night, you're likely not getting the quality REM cycle sleep that truly rejuvenates your body. If traditional remedies like herbal teas and noise machines just aren't helping, maybe it's time to try a modern solution. Enter the Apollo wearable.

Now we understand being a little skeptical. How can a bracelet on your wrist or ankle affect your sleep patterns? Certainly the answer to a better night's sleep can't be so simple. We considered these same things when we first heard of it. We'll dive deeper into the science behind the Apollo wearable, but suffice it to say that many people have experienced deeper, uninterrupted sleep while wearing one.
A non-conventional approach to better sleep

Read more
The 11 best Father’s Day deals that you can get for Sunday
Data from a workout showing on the screen of the Apple Watch Series 8.

Father's Day is fast approaching and there's still time to buy your beloved Dad a sweet new device to show him how much you love him. That's why we've rounded up the ten best Father's Day tech deals going on right now. There's something for most budgets here, including if you're able to spend a lot on your loved one. Read on while we take you through the highlights and remember to order fast so you don't miss out on the big day.
Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 -- $200, was $230

While it's the Plus version of the Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 that features in our look at the best tablets, the standard variety is still worth checking out. Saving your Dad the need to dig out their laptop or squint at a small phone screen, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 offers a large 10.5-inch LCD display and all the useful features you would expect. 128GB of storage means plenty of room for all your Dad's favorite apps as well as games too. A long-lasting battery and fast charging save him the need for a power source too often too.

Read more