Steel Mesh Could Help Separate Oil from Water in a SpillEngineering360 News Desk | April 22, 2015
Researchers at Ohio State University have created a steel net that captures fossil fuel from a mixture of oil and water, letting the water pass through. The technique could make it easier to clean up oil spills.
To create a surface that does the opposite of lotus leaves—repels oil rather than water—research leader Prof. Bharat Bhushan and fellow researcher Philip Brown sprayed a fine dusting of silicon nanoparticles onto the stainless steel mesh to create randomly bumpy surface first. Then, they layered the surface with a polymer embedded with molecules of a surfactant—a compound that is found in detergent and soap.
“If you scale this up, you could potentially catch an oil spill with a net," says Bhushan.
The silica, surfactant, polymer and stainless steel are all non-toxic and relatively inexpensive, says Brown. He estimates that a larger mesh net could be created for less than $1.00 per square foot.
The mesh coating is among other nature-inspired nanotechnologies under the development of Ohio State and described in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.