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 An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk
20.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP

nachricht Treated carbon pulls radioactive elements from water
20.01.2017 | Rice University

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>