Out of all the environmental dangers that affect us, one of the most alarming are oil spills. Environmental tragedies such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill that occurred in 1989 and the more recent BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, exposed just how serious the consequences of these disasters can be. Oil spills often result in immediate and long-term environmental damage. Some of the damage caused can last for decades after the initial spill occurs. The long-term damage from such a disaster can affect beaches, Marshlands, eco systems and wildlife habitats. Once the oil stops floating on the surface of the water and begins to sink, it can kill or contaminate fish and smaller organisms that are critical links in the global food chain.
During the on-going oil spill cleanup, one major development has come to light as a potentially useful source. The introduction of a “smart filter” could be beneficial in cleaning up environmental oil spills. It is designed with a shape-shifting surface that has the ability to separate oil from water through the use of gravity alone.
The coating on the filter not only repels oil, but attracts water. Most natural substances absorb oil, and the few that repels it also repels water because of the higher surface tension of water. The coating on the filter is a blend of rubbery, commercially available polymer and a nano-particle. This material ensures that water spreads on its surface, while the oil beads up allowing it easier to separate the oil from the water. This new development also shows potential for other applications such as wastewater treatment, oil purification for fuel applications and technology relevant to the cosmetics industry.
As we continue to learn more about this filter in the coming months, let’s make a commitment to create a more positive impact on our environment through recycling and reducing energy consumption. Do you think the Smart Filter is a viable solution to cleaning up oil spills and other applications? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.