Remember the images on the nightly news of the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Just to remind you, in 2010 a British Petroleum semi-submersible drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing eleven people and unleashing what is considered to have been the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. (photo – US Coast Guard/Alamy Stock)
Over the next excruciating months we watched as nearly 5 million barrels of crude escaped from the well head, spreading to eventually impact an area of 68,000 square miles.
Deepwater Clean-up Relied on Traditional Technology
Despite a massive clean-up response, involving up to 47,000 people, the damage to marine and wildlife habitats and the fishing and tourism industry was enormous. Three years after the oil spill there were reports of dolphins dying in record numbers and a 2014 study reported that tuna and amberjack exposed to the spill developed organ deformities.
The Deepwater clean-up effort relied on traditional methods using floating booms to contain the spill, surface ships to remove the oil from the water and the use of chemical dispersants to break down the oil. The controversial dispersants were used in record amounts and appear to have many harmful side effects.
Now We Have the Miracle Sponge!
Oil spills continue and will undoubtedly do so as long as we are addicted to petroleum, but research into new technologies to clean up oil spills has also continued. Today we can report that scientists at Argonne National laboratory in Illinois may have developed a new tool to help in cleaning up our messy messes. It’s a sponge designed specifically to clean up oil spills; has the capability to absorb up to 90 times its own weight in oil and then can be wrung out and used again, and again. That’s the really ground-breaking part, it’s recyclability, Traditional materials are used once, soak up the oil and then are disposed with the oil, usually by incineration, creating another type of harmful pollution.
Created by Seth Darling and his Argonne colleagues, he calls it a polymer “foam” coated with “oil-loving” silane molecules that attracts the oil. The miracle sponge is now being field tested and Darling has high hopes. “In an ideal world, you would have warehoused collections of this foam sitting near wherever there are offshore operations… or where there’s a lot of shipping traffic, or right on rigs… ready to go when the spill happens.”
See more on this new Oil Loving Sponge at:
Yahoo: Groundbreaking new polymer sponge is designed specifically for cleaning up oil spills in the ocean
New Scientist.com: Sponge can soak up and release spilled oil hundreds of times
the Business Insider.com: Scientists have developed a genius new way to soak up oil spills
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