Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Low-Grade Cotton Offers More Ecologically-Friendly Way to Clean Oil Spills

21.05.2013
When it comes to cleaning up the next massive crude oil spill, one of the best and most eco-friendly solutions for the job may be low-grade cotton from West Texas.

Seshadri Ramkumar, lead author of the study and manager of the Nonwovens and Advanced Materials Laboratory at The Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH), said he and his colleagues found that low-micronaire cotton – one of the lowest-quality types of cotton – is most effective at picking up oil. A pound of the low-micronaire cotton can pick up more than 30 pounds of crude oil, and its natural waxiness helps to repel water.

The new study includes some of the first scientific data on unprocessed raw cotton’s use in crude oil spills, and was published in the ACS journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.

“In this region, about 10 percent of the cotton grown in West Texas is low micronaire,” he said. “It doesn’t take a dye well, so it gets discounted. However, because low-micronaire cotton is less mature, it shrinks, and you are able to pack more fiber into a given area. The strength here is that the low-micronaire cotton absorbs the most crude oil. The oil is not only stuck to surface, the oil gets absorbed into the fiber.”

Ron Kendall, director emeritus at TIEHH and special assistant to the president, said the Deepwater Horizon disaster emphasized the need for better ways of cleaning up oil spills.

“One of the things we realized from Deepwater Horizon is we didn’t have the best tools for cleanup, and the technology wasn’t right for the booms,” Kendall said. “This discovery that low-micronaire cotton, which is the least valuable cotton, can absorb as much crude oil as it does is a breakthrough discovery. It gives us an excellent tool for cleanup of shorelines, animals and ecologically sensitive areas as well as a new technology for booms that can stop oil sheen moving into wetlands. And it’s biodegradable. This is just another added bonus use for low-end West Texas cotton. Now, farmers have a new use for low-end cotton in a very significant way for oil spill cleanup. It’s a major discovery from scientific and economic standpoints.”

Scientists have done extensive studies on fibers such as barley straw, kapok, polypropylene wool, Ramkumar said. However, big gaps existed in knowledge about their basic crude oil-uptake mechanisms and no data existed on unprocessed raw cotton. His team decided to fill those gaps with research on the oil sorption properties of low-micronaire cotton.

The cotton fibers take up oil in multiple ways, including both absorption and adsorption in which oil sticks to the outer surface of the cotton fiber.

“Our interest was to see how raw cotton straight from the bale picks up the crude oil as well as determining the governing mechanism behind picking up the crude oil,” he said. “We show through sophisticated testing that low-micronaire cotton is much finer and can pick up more crude oil. And crude oil is very different from refined motor oil. It’s very dense and releases toxic vapors. It’s not as easy to get picked up. 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.”

Laboratory work using crude oil was performed by graduate student Vinitkumar Singh. Both Cotton Incorporated and The CH Foundation contributed funds to this research. For a PDF of this research, contact John Davis.

Find Texas Tech news, experts and story ideas at www.media.ttu.edu and on Twitter @TexasTechMedia.

CONTACT: Seshadri S. Ramkumar, associate professor, The Institute for Environmental and Human Health, Texas Tech University, (806) 885-0228 or s.ramkumar@ttu.edu, Ron Kendall, professor and special assistant to the president, Office of the President, Texas Tech University, (806) 885-0238 or ron.kendall@tiehh.ttu.edu.

John Davis | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.ttu.edu

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Move over, Superman! NIST method sees through concrete to detect early-stage corrosion
27.04.2017 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht Control of molecular motion by metal-plated 3-D printed plastic pieces
27.04.2017 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>