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Sponges offer hope for affordable spill handling

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shutterstock_299821187RESEARCHERS at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genova have published a paper demonstrating that simple sponges made from polyurethane foam can be more effective at soaking up oil spills than more expensive sponges treated with nanoparticles.

The paper “Effect of the porous structure of polymer foams on the remediation of oil spills” appeared in the publication Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics on 1 March. It appears to show that polyurethane foam with pores smaller than 0.5mm can absorb up to 30g of oil per gram of sponge. This improves upon the performance of sponges made from polypropylene – a conventional choice for cleaning up oil spills – by a factor of three.

In addition, most of the oil contained by this method can be recovered by squeezing the sponge, which can itself be reused up to ten times.

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