Floating as a model
Oil catastrophes could soon be effectively combated with German technology!!
Engineers have developed a material that does not absorb water but uses large quantities of oil.
Subsequently, the nanopelz can be simply fished out of the water with its oil freight.
In the search for an environmentally friendly way to remove oil carpets, a research group of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is developing what is known as Nanofur ,a nanopelts made of plastic with tiny hairs and craters.
The Krux: Nanofur’s ability to bind oil varies according to the shape and length of the hair.
The solution: a look into nature. “We are investigating naturally occurring nano- and microstructures in order to adopt them for technical developments,” explains KIT scientist Hendrik Hölscher.
Floaters are masters of oil absorption in order to find the best possible combination of hair length and shape.
The scientists have examined underwater swimming-pools (Salvinia),plants with 2 to 20 cm sized leaves, which float on the water surface in the tropics of Central and South America.
“The fact that the leaves of these plants are water repellent was already known,” says researcher Claudia Zeiger.
“For the first time, we have investigated their property of absorbing oil.”
A video shows how susceptible the swimming fern leaves are: A scientist gives with a pipette an approximately 2 cm oil droplet into a water filled test tube.
Subsequently, he dips a leaf with a tweezers ,also about 2 cm tall into the drops.
It takes only 30 s until the oil is completely absorbed.
The water is cleansed of the oil, the leaf is black as the night.
Hair ends in snow bees shape are the winners the secret of absorption are so-called trichome hair like extensions on the leaf surface, which are between 0.3 and 2.5 mm long.
Do leaves with the longest hair absorb the most oil? Could be assumed but is not so. “The oil absorption capacity is the shape of the hair ends,” says Zeiger.
Most of the oil absorbed leaves of the swim fern type Salvinia molesta.
Their hair ends are connected in the form of a snow bean. With these findings, the scientists are developing nanofur further.
Nanofur could be used in the future against oil catastrophes.
So far the following problem exists: Natural materials such as sawdust or plant fibers are not very effective because they absorb large amounts of water.
Bacteria were overwhelmed by the amount of oil.
And chemical dispersions have devastating consequences for the environment, as the downfall of the oil platform Deepwater Horizon on April 20, 2010 showed.
At that time an attempt was made to bind 780 million liters of oil using the highly toxic binder corexitin. two years after the catastrophe, dolphins lost 16 times as many dolphins as they would in a decade.
So far, the material is in the prototype stage.
The researchers are working on a large scale production.