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MIT develops a 'paper towel' for oil spills
Date:5/30/2008

ting above the boiling point of oil. The oil evaporates, and can be condensed back into a liquid. The membrane-and oil-can be used again.

Two key properties make the system work. First, the nanowires form a spaghetti-like mat with many tiny pores that make for good capillarity, or the ability to absorb liquids. Second, a water-repelling coating keeps water from penetrating into the membrane. Oil, however, isn't affected, and seeps into the membrane.

The membrane is created by the same general technique as its low-tech cousin, paper. We make a suspension of nanowires, like a suspension of cellulose [the key component of paper], dry it on a non-sticking plate, and we get pretty much the same results, Stellacci said.

In a commentary accompanying the Nature Nanotechnology paper, Joerg Lahann of the University of Michigan concluded: Stellacci and co-workers have provided an example of a nanomaterial that has been rationally designed to address a major environmental challenge.


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Contact: Elizabeth Thomson
thomson@mit.edu
617-258-5402
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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