Environmental damage from oil spills has always been a challenge for the oil industry. The primary victims of these spills are the wild life living in the immediate area. When the oil poisons them, it affects the entire food chain of the ecosystem.

Techniques to clean up oil spills currently include adding grease and burning the oil slick, and using barriers and skimmers to remove oil from the water’s surface. There are even some studies in progress researching oil-digesting bacteria, but none of the methods currently available are universally successful.

A new approach is being developed by the A*STAR Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore. They have created molecules with special gelling abilities that can transform oil in water into a type of jelly.

The molecules, so-called ‘supergelators’, work in a matter of minutes after being sprayed onto oil. On contact with oil the molecules become long fibers that create a web, trapping the immersed oil into a jelly. The jelly then floats on the surface, facilitating its removal from the water. Tests on freshly spilled crude and highly weathered crude have both been successful.
The lead researcher of the project, Dr. Yugen Zhang commented:

“Nanoscience makes it possible to tailor the essential structures of materials at the nanometer scale to achieve specific properties.” “Structures and materials in the nanometer size range often take on distinctive properties that are not seen in other size ranges.”

A paper has been published in the journal Chemistry of Materials entitled “Instant Room-Temperature Gelation of Crude Oil by Chiral Organogelators” related to the study.

Categories: Industry update

By: Atmos International
Date: 12 April 2019