At a glance 1 min

The magic anti-oil spill sponge

The magic anti-oil spill sponge
The magic anti-oil spill sponge

Researchers at an American centre have developed a small sponge that could solve the problem of oil spills, as it is able to absorb oil without absorbing water.

Very obviously christened Oleo, this magic sponge is made from polyurethane or polyimide foam coated with metallic oxides, which is water-repellent (covered in molecules that will attract the oil). In full-scale tests conducted in December, the sponge was used in basins, in which oil had been spilled, and it was able to absorb 90 times its own weight: the scientists at the National Laboratory of Argonne in the United States then simply had to wring the precious sponge to recover the no less precious liquid. One of Oleo's other advantages is that it can be re-used, unlike other materials used for oil leaks and spills. 

However, one factor remains unknown: can the sponge function at depth, under high pressure? 
In any case, the Oleo sponge could be used on board oil tankers or oil platforms in the form of large absorbent blankets, for the purpose of containing possible leaks and thus avoid larger disasters, or simply to clean up port areas.

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