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This New, Super-Absorbent Sponge Could Be the Solution to Oil Spills

Move over, SpongeBob. There's a new sponge in town. Not only can it soak up 90 times its weight in oil; it can also be reused hundreds of times.


Move over, SpongeBob. There's a new sponge in town, and while it doesn't have a cool pet snail, it might be our best shot at cleaning up after oil spills.

 

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This new material can soak up 90 times its own weight and be reused "hundreds of times," unlike the materials we currently use to clean up spilled oil, which are called sorbents.

 

Like paper towels, sorbents are thrown out (in this case, incinerated) after just one use. A reusable sponge, like a washable mop head, could cut down on a lot of waste.

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Created by a team of researchers at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, the new material is made up of a polyurethane or polyimide plastic foam, coated with silane molecules, which soak up oil as hungrily as this creepy putty blob absorbs a block.

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While too little silane would make the sponges less absorbent, too much would make them impossible to ring out and reuse.

 

The researchers still need to make sure the sponge can stand up to the high pressures of the deep sea, but provided those tests go well, they hope to see it stored at the ready wherever oil spills are likely to happen.

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Watch New Scientist's video, below, to see the sponge in action.

 

(h/t New Scientist)

 

Learn about how you can help vulnerable marine animals by signing up with Oceana.

 

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