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Oleo sponge invented at Argonne National Laboratory can sop up oil in a spill

A group of researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory have developed a sponge that will collect oil from bodies of water, which could improve how harbors and ports are cleaned, as well as how oil spills are managed.

The Oleo Sponge is made of a polyurethane foam whose interior surfaces are covered with oleophilic molecules that draw oil out of water. The challenge, according to Argonne, was finding a way to “glue” those oil-loving molecules to the sponge’s interior. That issue was tackled with the help of 2011 research from Argonne scientists, who were able to infuse metal oxide with nanostructures. The Oleo creators used that technique to develop a primer for the interior of the sponge that the oleophilic molecules stick to. The result is a sponge that can adsorb up to 90 times its weight in oil.

After use, the sponge can be wrung out and the oil can even be reclaimed in some cases. Argonne says it’s actively looking to commercialize the material through licensing or collaboration agreements, and the sponge could be ready for real-world use in less than five years, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The sponge was tested extensively in a New Jersey saltwater research tank, where it was able to collect both diesel and crude oil from the tank, whether the oil was above or below the water’s surface.

Seth Darling, the sponge’s co-inventor and a scientist with Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials, said in a press release that “The material is extremely sturdy. We’ve run dozens to hundreds of tests, wringing it out each time, and we have yet to see it break down at all.”

Oil spills are devastating for marine life and are often challenging to clean up. One of the most dramatic spills in recent history was the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which released millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. As the WSJ points out, there are issues with many of our traditional methods of oil spill clean up. The spread of oil can be slowed with the help of floating barriers, and skimmers can remove oil from the top of the water, but removing oil from under the water’s surface can be trickier, sometimes requiring chemical dispersants. Absorbent materials can sponge up oil, but they must be thrown out after they’ve been saturated. An Oleo sponge, on the other hand, can be reused.

The research was funded by the US Coast Guard and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and it was supported with resources from the Department of Energy.

Ars Technica

27 Comments on "Oleo sponge invented at Argonne National Laboratory can sop up oil in a spill"

  1. Midnight Oil on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 4:49 pm 

    BP has forecast it will come in handy for future deep water coasters.

  2. rockman on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 5:25 pm 

    Nothing new as far as absorbers. Maybe more effective then what we’ve had for decades. And maybe not.

  3. Apneaman on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 5:45 pm 

    Big fucking whoop. The oceans are about 90% dead compared to a century ago and most of the rest will go quick and so will the humans. Clueless fucking morons have no idea what’s coming.

    Growing algae bloom in Arabian Sea tied to climate change

    “BANDAR AL-ROWDAH, Oman (AP) — The Gulf of Oman turns green twice a year, when an algae bloom the size of Mexico spreads across the Arabian Sea all the way to India.

    Scientists who study the algae say the microscopic organisms are thriving in new conditions brought about by climate change, and displacing the zooplankton that underpin the local food chain, threatening the entire marine ecosystem.”

  4. Apneaman on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 5:51 pm 

    Ocean Apocalypse Now, Jeremy Jackson

    “Overfishing, pollution, and climate change are massively degrading ocean ecosystems, with alarming implications for biodiversity and human well-being. Coral reefs are dying, fisheries are collapsing, and formerly productive coastal seas are turning into anoxic dead zones dominated by jellyfish, microbes, and disease. Global climate change exacerbates these problems and is causing sea level rise that will flood the homes of a billion people by 2100. Changes are accelerating with sudden shifts to unwanted conditions that may be impossible to reverse.”

  5. Apneaman on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 5:53 pm 

    The Glowing Waters of the Arabian Sea are Killing off Ocean Life

    ““The fish are migrating. They can’t get enough air here.” — Saleh al-Mashari, captain of a researcher vessel in the Gulf of Oman


    They are an ancient, primordial race of tiny organisms called noctiluca scintillans. And for millenia they have lived undisturbed in the deep waters between Oman and India. But as human fossil fuel burning forced the world to warm, this 1.2 billion year old species was dredged up from the deep.

    Growing atmospheric and ocean heat fed the great storms that make up India’s southern monsoon. And as these storms intensified, they churned the waters of the Gulf of Oman, drawing the ancient noctiluca scintillans up from below. As these dinoflaggelates reached the surface they encountered more food in the form of plankton even as they gained access to more sunlight. Meanwhile, the strengthening monsoons seeded surface waters with nutrients flushed down rivers and streams and into the ocean.”

    Yabut sponges N stuff

  6. Apneaman on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 5:55 pm 

    Bay of Bengal: depleted fish stocks and huge dead zone signal tipping point

    Long treated as a bottomless resource pit, over-exploitation of the ocean, pollution and rising sea levels are having a catastrophic impact on life in the bay

  7. Wildbourgman on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 5:57 pm 

    “Big fucking whoop. The oceans are about 90% dead compared to a century ago and most of the rest will go quick and so will the humans. Clueless fucking morons have no idea what’s coming”

    Yeah, but we won’t lose the oil that gets spilled. Look at the bright side.

  8. Apneaman on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 5:58 pm 

    International research team reports ocean acidification spreading rapidly in Arctic Ocean in area and depth

  9. Apneaman on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 6:02 pm 

    Price spikes for jumbo shrimp blamed on Gulf of Mexico dead zone

    Trump Cuts Regulations as Oceanic Dead Zones Release Massive Amounts of Methane

  10. Apneaman on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 6:07 pm 

    Colorado wildfire scorches woodland, at least 1,000 people evacuated

    “The fire was fanned by winds that the National Weather Service forecast could gust to 33 miles per hour (53 kph) during the afternoon, with temperatures expected to be near 80 Fahrenheit (27 Celsius).

    A wide swath of northeastern Colorado is under a National Weather Service “red flag” warning for wildfires. Much of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Nebraska are in drought conditions ranging from moderate to extreme, the agency said.

    Prairie fires stoked by high winds and tinder-dry vegetation raged across 1.5 million acres (600,000 hectares) of the southern Great Plains early this month, killing at least six people and prompting thousands of people to be evacuated.”

    Maybe they will come up with a fire sponge?

  11. Boat on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 6:16 pm 


    Last weekend I bought 2 lb of very large shrimp for $6.97 per lb. That is a great price. Add taters, corn and sausage in a big pot for a boil. Does not get much better.

  12. makati1 on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 6:34 pm 

    But…but…will it work in real life? THAT is the question. I doubt it. Few of these techie ‘cures’ are well thought out, just profitable to the techies.

    Just throw out a few hundred square miles of it and see what happens. Your tax money at work. F35 anyone? lol

  13. makati1 on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 6:36 pm 

    Boat, odds are your shrimp came from Asia, not the Gulf. But hey! Just a different kind of pollution. lol

  14. Cloggie on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 7:21 pm 

    Boat, odds are your shrink came from Israel.

  15. Apneaman on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 7:24 pm 

    Boat there is no better guide to the state of the world or the lives of 7.5 billion people in it than your personal experiences. Boat is happy therefore everyone else must be.

    Boat apparently not all your white American brothers are so happy.

    Drugs are killing so many people in Ohio that cold-storage trailers are being used as morgues

    I wonder if those are the same reefers your dead shrimp was shipped in?

  16. Apneaman on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 7:45 pm 

    Boat your culinary boasting sounds vaguely familiar.

    The First-Class Menu
    As served in the first-class dining saloon of the R.M.S. Titanic on April 14, 1912

    First Course
    Hors D’Oeuvres

    Second Course
    Consommé Olga
    Cream of Barley

    Third Course
    Poached Salmon with Mousseline Sauce, Cucumbers

    Fourth Course
    Filet Mignons Lili
    Saute of Chicken, Lyonnaise
    Vegetable Marrow Farci

    Fifth Course
    Lamb, Mint Sauce
    Roast Duckling, Apple Sauce
    Sirloin of Beef, Chateau Potatoes
    Green Pea
    Creamed Carrots
    Boiled Rice
    Parmentier & Boiled New Potatoes

    Sixth Course
    Punch Romaine

    Seventh Course
    Roast Squab & Cress

    Eighth Course
    Cold Asparagus Vinaigrette

    Ninth Course
    Pate de Foie Gras

    Tenth Course
    Waldorf Pudding
    Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly
    Chocolate & Vanilla Eclairs
    French Ice Cream

    The repast was served with a different wine for each course. Following the tenth course fresh fruits and cheeses were available followed by coffee and cigars accompanied by port and, if desired, distilled spirits.

    Bon Voyage Retard!

  17. Anonymous on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 7:47 pm 

    Boatard is not the boards village idiot, and certifiable retard for nothing, guys. He works very to prove this over and over, by posting meaningless shit like the howler above. Maybe him and plantard can get together and tell us all about the king salmon glut one of these days, what that means for the future.

  18. GregT on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 7:52 pm 

    How safe is your shrimp?

    Americans love shrimp

    “Americans eat about three times more shrimp than we did 35 years ago. To satisfy our insatiable appetite, the U.S. has become a massive importer: About 94 percent of our shrimp supply comes from abroad, from countries such as India, Indonesia, and Thailand.”

    “Most of the shrimp we import is “farmed”—grown in huge industrial tanks or shallow, man-made ponds that can stretch for acres. ”

    “They’re fed commercial pellets, sometimes containing antibiotics to ward off disease. If ponds aren’t carefully managed, a sludge of fecal matter, chemicals, and excess food can build up and decay.”

    Mmmmm, sounds yummy Boat.

  19. Apneaman on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 8:07 pm 

    Of the 15 most costly events for the now-bankrupt US National Flood Insurance Program, 12 happened since year 2000

    Deep in debt, flood insurance program expected to boost rates

  20. Boat on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 8:36 pm 


    When insurance rates become to high people will move, eh?

    Over the next 50 years moving away from the coast will become normal.

    I like the idea of thinning the heard. To much traffic for the roads built. Texans are not exceptional when it comes to city planning.

  21. GregT on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 8:43 pm 

    “Add taters, corn and sausage in a big pot for a boil. Does not get much better.”

    Like I said before, not exactly what most people around the world would consider to be culinary cuisine.

    What would you call that Boat? Let me guess. Shrimp, taters, corn, and sausage boil? Do you add salt to that? Or do you like to keep it simple?

  22. GregT on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 8:45 pm 

    “Texans are not exceptional when it comes to city planning.”

    Not surprising.

  23. Boat on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 9:11 pm 


    It’s called a low country boil. The seasoning for the boil comes in a bag, called zatarains crawfish, shrimp and crab boil. Use butcher block paper, dump piles on the table. Eat with fingers or a fork. The kids love as well. Our Thanksgiving gathering has around 35 or show and the boil is part of the tradition. 4 of us have developed our own sauces for the shrimp. Mine includes shrimp sauce, horse radish, salt, black pepper, lime juice.

  24. GregT on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 9:34 pm 


    Just checked out the recipe. Interesting….
    Question. Do you keep your taters and onions in the mesh bags from the store when you boil them, or do you prefer the laundry bags?

  25. Apneaman on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 10:03 pm 

    Boat, I dun learned to luvs me some Georgia low country boil and all that Southerner food (except grits- yuk) in my time living in the great state of Georgia.

    Boat, the humans can move away from rising seas easily enough. That trillions of dollars of infrastructure build out is another matter entirely.

  26. Apneaman on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 10:08 pm 

    Toxic Algae May Thrive as Climate and Oceans Warm, Study Says

    As oceans soak up the Earth’s excess heat, algae blooms that can have fatal implications to humans are becoming far more common, researchers show.

    “A newly established link between warmer ocean temperatures and toxin-spawning algae provides the latest sign that climate change is causing biological disturbances in the oceans. Scientists tracked West Coast outbreaks of the planktonic algae back to 1991, finding them strongly correlated with warm phases of Pacific Ocean cycles.

    The new research, published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focused on a single-cell species of phytoplankton called Pseudo-nitzschia. It produces domoic acid, which can be fatal to humans if consumed at high levels by eating shellfish. Domoic acid has also been implicated in mass die-offs of marine mammals, including sea lions, sea otters, dolphins and whales.”

    “Domoic acid” Sounds evil.

  27. makati1 on Sun, 19th Mar 2017 10:33 pm 

    Last time I checked, 60+% of the U$ population lives on the coasts. That is about 200,000,000 people to relocate. Where? How? Who is going to pay the trillions in costs? And, as AP said, that is the location of the whole financial/government/real estate centers of the country. DC is only ~7 feet (2M) above sea level now. ALL of the ports for shipping are already at sea level. Trillions in infrastructure lost forever.

    Yep, rising seas will not bother Boat, but the millions that invade his precious Texas will. LOL

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