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Cotton Is An Eco-Friendly Way To Clean Up Oil Spills

July 31, 2013

The latest episode in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) award-winning Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions podcast series describes a report demonstrating that unprocessed, raw cotton has an amazing ability to sop up oil while also being eco-friendly.

Based on a report by Seshadri Ramkumar, Ph.D., in the ACS journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, the new podcast is available without charge at iTunes and from http://www.acs.org/globalchallenges.

In light of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, Ramkumar notes that a particular need exists for oil-spill sorbents that are abundantly available at relatively low cost. They also should be sustainable and biodegradable. There have been extensive studies on fibers such as barley straw, kapok and wool — but big gaps in knowledge about how they take up crude oil, and no data on unprocessed raw cotton.

Ramkumar’s team decided to fill those gaps with research on “low micronaire” cotton, a form of unprocessed cotton with relatively less commercial value.

They report that each pound of the cotton has the ability to sop up and hold more than 30 pounds of crude oil. “In contrast to synthetic sorbents, raw cotton with its high crude oil sorption capacity and positive environmental footprint make it an ecologically friendly sorbent for oil spill cleanups,” the report concludes.

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Source: American Chemical Society