Friday, May 30, 2008

The Quicker Cleaner-Upper

Nanowire mat could be an important new tool for cleaning up oil and other organic pollutants
Elizabeth A. Thomson, MIT News Office, May 30, 2008

MIT researchers and colleagues have created a membrane that can absorb up to 20 times its weight in oil, and can be recycled many times for future use. The oil itself can also be recovered. In addition to its environmental applications, the nanowire paper may also have applications for filtering and purifying water.

Two key properties make the system work. First, the nanowires form a spaghetti-like mat with many tiny pores that make for good capillarity, or the ability to absorb liquids. Second, a water-repelling coating keeps water from penetrating into the membrane. Oil, however, isn't affected, and seeps into the membrane. The membrane is created by the same general technique as its low-tech cousin, paper.

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