Oil-Slurping Nanotechnology Next Front in Fighting Spills

MIT scientists create mesh that keeps water out, can hold 20 times its weight in crude
By Dustin Lushing,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 4, 2008 7:52 PM CDT
An oil spill is seen from the air with the Bay Bridge in the background in San Francisco, on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2007.    (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
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(Newser) – 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.