Cleaning up oil might soon get faster and cheaper, thanks to nanotechnology. Scientists at MIT have crafted a paper-like substance that can absorb up to 20 times its weight, the Economist reports. The mesh of nanowires, each 1/1,000th the diameter of a human hair, feels and looks like paper—and can repel water, making absorption of oil more efficient.
The water-repelling silicone coating would allow the mesh to be placed in water for months and then be removed completely dry. What's more, the mesh is stable when heated, so oil could be evaporated off after it's pulled from a spill area and the mesh could be re-used.