Oil Spills Current Affairs - 2019
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Scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER), Thiruvananthapuram have developed gelator that can suck up oil and congeal it.
The gelator is hydrophobic material that has property of oleilophilic (oil-loving) and takes up oil when it comes in contact with it. It can be used to recover marine oil spills with a simple, efficient and cost-effective method.
The gelator is developed using a cheap raw material mannitol and cellulose pulp through a one-step process. In this process the mannitol gets adsorbed on the cellulose fibre through hydrogen bonding. The adsorption process changes the cellulose matrix from being very hydrophilic (water-loving) to hydrophobic (water repelling).
The property of gelator to self-assemble to form micro fibres makes congealing of oil possible and the oil loses its fluidity and gets trapped within the entangled fibrous network to form a rigid gel. Gelation essentially turns the liquid oil into semi-solid and this allows congealed oil to be simply scooped out using a scoop or a sieve.
During the studies, it was found that the gelator was able to absorb and congeal 16 times its own weight of oil. Even, the absorbed oil can be recovered by applying pressure or fractionated by a simple distillation process.
Applications: Gelator can also serve as a more efficient, quick and cost-effective way for absorption of crude oil from the sea following marine spill. Unlike other alternatives, the gelator can be easily applied over oil-water mixture and no solvent is needed for spraying it thus making it environment friendly.
Researchers from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Thiruvananthapuram have developed a compound named gelator to scoop out marine oil spills.
They had produced gelators using glucose as a starting material and through several other chemical reactions.
How it works?
- The gelator molecule is partly hydrophilic and partly hydrophobic. The hydrophilic part helps in self-assembling to form gelator fibres, while the hydrophobic part is responsible for its diffusion into oil layer.
- Since outer part of the fibre is hydrophobic, oil tends to gets into spongy network made of fibres. Once inside the fibre network, oil loses fluidity and becomes a gel. The gel was strong enough to be scooped with a spatula.
What are the advantages?
- Gelator has ability to selectively congeal oil, including crude oil from an oil-water mixture. It makes the process of recovering marine oil spills simple, efficient and cost-effective.
- It is in a powder form and can be easily applied over oil-water mixture. It does not cause any environmental damage.
- It can be recovered oil from oil-water mixture and can be reused several times. But in the case of crude oil, the gelator can’t be recycled.