One of the modified nanocellulose sponges soaks up oil (red) while repelling water (blue)
Oil is added to a sample of water
One of the sponges is then added to the sample
The sponge soaks up the oil, while not absorbing any of the water
The oil-laden sponge is then removed from the water
As the Deepwater Horizon incident showed us, oil spills can be huge environmental disasters. That said, there are also considerable challenges in dealing with the waste products generated by the forestry and agriculture industries. Now, scientists from Switzerland's Empa research group have come up with a method of addressing the one problem with the other – they've developed sponges made from cellulose waste, that can soak up 50 times their own weight in oil.
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