The cutting-edge material can absorb up to 33 times its own weight in oil!
Scientists in Australia have created an amazing new material that could prove vital in a future ecological disaster like the BP oil spill of 2010. Since experts have warned that future oil spills are ‘unavoidable’, this exciting new invention couldn’t have come soon enough.
The material is called a boron nitride nanosheet, and it acts just like a sponge. Scientist Dr Weiwei Lei from Deakins University’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) said that the nanosheet is “made up of flakes which are just several nanometers [one billionth of a meter] in thickness, with tiny holes which can increase its surface area per gram to effectively the size of 5.5 tennis courts.”
The research team, which included scientists from Drexel University, Philadelphia, and Missouri University of Science and Technology, created the super-sponge using boron nitride powder known as ‘white graphite.’ This was originally invented in 2013, but transforming this powder into a sponge-like material was the tricky part. After two years, the team have managed to break the white graphite down into atomically thin sheets that were then used to make a sponge.
“The pores in the nanosheets provide the surface area to absorb oils and organic solvents up to 33 times its own weight,” Dr Lei said.
These nanosheets are perfect in every way: they do not burn, they can withstand flame, and they can be used in flexible and transparent electrical and heat insulation, in addition to many other things. The material is now ready to start trialling.
Professor Ying (Ian) Chen, the lead author on the paper, explained:
“Oil spills are a global problem and wreak havoc on our aquatic ecosystems, not to mention cost billions of dollars in damage. Everyone remembers the Gulf Coast disaster, but here in Australia they are a regular problem, and not just in our waters. Oil spills from trucks and other vehicles can close freeways for an entire day, again amounting to large economic losses.”
Dr. Chen pointed out that current methods of cleaning up oil spills are “inefficient and unsophisticated, taking too long, causing ongoing and expensive damage.” As we have previously reported, materials used to clean up oil spills can often do more harm than good- which is why this revolutionary material is so important.
“We are so excited to have finally got to this stage after two years of trying to work out how to turn what we knew was a good material into something that could be practically used,” Dr Chen said.
So are we, and no doubt these penguins will also be pleased! Please comment below and share this uplifting news!
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