Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Greener' aerogel technology holds potential for oil and chemical clean-up

Date:
February 25, 2014
Source:
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Summary:
A group of researchers is examining alternative materials that can be modified to absorb oil and chemicals without absorbing water. If further developed, the technology may offer a cheaper and 'greener' method to absorb oil and heavy metals from water and other surfaces.

Zheng uses tweezers to hold a sample of the aerogel that has been used to absorb red-dyed diesel fuel (right), while Gong holds a sample of unused aerogel (left).
Credit: Bryce Richter/University of Wisconsin Madison

Cleaning up oil spills and metal contaminates in a low-impact, sustainable and inexpensive manner remains a challenge for companies and governments globally.

Related Articles


But a group of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is examining alternative materials that can be modified to absorb oil and chemicals without absorbing water. If further developed, the technology may offer a cheaper and "greener" method to absorb oil and heavy metals from water and other surfaces.

Shaoqin "Sarah" Gong, a researcher at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID) and associate professor of biomedical engineering, graduate student Qifeng Zheng, and Zhiyong Cai, a project leader at the USDA Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, have recently created and patented the new aerogel technology.

Aerogels, which are highly porous materials and the lightest solids in existence, are already used in a variety of applications, ranging from insulation and aerospace materials to thickening agents in paints. The aerogel prepared in Gong's lab is made of cellulose nanofibrils (sustainable wood-based materials) and an environmentally friendly polymer. Furthermore, these cellulose-based aerogels are made using an environmentally friendly freeze-drying process without the use of organic solvents.

It's the combination of this "greener" material and its high performance that got Gong's attention.

"For this material, one unique property is that it has superior absorbing ability for organic solvents -- up to nearly 100 times its own weight," she says. "It also has strong absorbing ability for metal ions."

Treating the cellulose-based aerogel with specific types of silane after it is made through the freeze-drying process is a key step that gives the aerogel its water-repelling and oil-absorbing properties.

"So if you had an oil spill, for example, the idea is you could throw this aerogel sheet in the water and it would start to absorb the oil very quickly and efficiently," she says. "Once it's fully saturated, you can take it out and squeeze out all the oil. Although its absorbing capacity reduces after each use, it can be reused for a couple of cycles."

In addition, this cellulose-based aerogel exhibits excellent flexibility as demonstrated by compression mechanical testing.

Though much work needs to be done before the aerogel can be mass-produced, Gong says she's eager to share the technology's potential benefits beyond the scientific community.

"We are living in a time where pollution is a serious problem -- especially for human health and for animals in the ocean," she says. "We are passionate to develop technology to make a positive societal impact."

Gong and her colleagues have featured their findings in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A.

A video demonstration of the aerogel can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/83866048


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Qifeng Zheng, Zhiyong Cai, Shaoqin Gong. Green synthesis of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA)–cellulose nanofibril (CNF) hybrid aerogels and their use as superabsorbents. Journal of Materials Chemistry A, 2014; 2 (9): 3110 DOI: 10.1039/C3TA14642A

Cite This Page:

University of Wisconsin-Madison. "'Greener' aerogel technology holds potential for oil and chemical clean-up." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140225112938.htm>.
University of Wisconsin-Madison. (2014, February 25). 'Greener' aerogel technology holds potential for oil and chemical clean-up. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140225112938.htm
University of Wisconsin-Madison. "'Greener' aerogel technology holds potential for oil and chemical clean-up." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140225112938.htm (accessed March 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, March 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Arthropod Fossil Might Be Relative Of Spiders, Scorpions

New Arthropod Fossil Might Be Relative Of Spiders, Scorpions

Newsy (Mar. 29, 2015) A 508-million-year-old arthropod that swam in the Cambrian seas is thought to share a common ancestor with spiders and scorpions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Vietnam Rice Boom Piles Pressure on Farmers and the Environment

Vietnam Rice Boom Piles Pressure on Farmers and the Environment

AFP (Mar. 29, 2015) Vietnam&apos;s drive to become the world&apos;s leading rice exporter is pushing farmers in the fertile Mekong Delta to the brink, say experts, with mounting costs to the environment. Duration: 02:35 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: New Eruptions at Colima Volcano in Mexico

Raw: New Eruptions at Colima Volcano in Mexico

AP (Mar. 28, 2015) The Colima Volcano in western Mexico sent large columns of ash up into the air on Saturday. (March 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Antarctic Ice Is Melting Faster Than Ever

Antarctic Ice Is Melting Faster Than Ever

Newsy (Mar. 27, 2015) A new study of nearly two decades of satellite data shows Antarctic ice shelves are losing more mass faster every year. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins