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Nanofur for Oil Spill Cleanup

Materials Researchers Learn from Aquatic Ferns: Hairy Plant Leaves Are Highly Oil-absorbing / Publication in Bioinspiration & Biomimetics / Video on Absorption Capacity
Die Wasserpflanze Salvinia im Labor
Thanks to fine hairs on the leaf surface, the salvinia water fern can absorb and bind mineral oil from water surfaces. (Photo: C. Zeiger/KIT)

Some water ferns can absorb large volumes of oil within a short time, because their leaves are strongly water-repellent and, at the same time, highly oil-absorbing. Researchers of KIT, together with colleagues of Bonn University, have found that the oil-binding capacity of the water plant results from the hairy microstructure of its leaves. It is now used as a model to further develop the new Nanofur material for the environmentally friendly cleanup of oil spills.

Damaged pipelines, oil tanker disasters, and accidents on oil drilling and production platforms may result in pollutions of water with crude or mineral oil. Conventional methods to clean up the oil spill are associated with specific drawbacks. Oil combustion or the use of chemical substances to accelerate oil decomposition cause secondary environmental pollution. Many natural materials to take up the oil, such as sawdust or plant fibers, are hardly effective, because they also absorb large amounts of water. On their search for an environmentally friendly alternative to clean up oil spills, the researchers compared various species of aquatic ferns. “We already knew that the leaves of these plants repel water, but for the first time now, we have studied their capacity to absorb oil,” Claudia Zeiger says. She conducted the project at KIT’s Institute of Microstructure Technology.





Click here for the online publication.

Further information in the Press Release 115/2016.


afr, 18.08.2016