Sugar Battles Oil Spills

The environment has often suffered from the catastrophic effects of an oil spill, the most recent example being the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The search for ways to remove oil from polluted water is therefore urgent.

US scientists working with George John have now developed a novel gelator that solidifies the oil into a gel from which it can easily be later reclaimed. As the scientists from the City College of New York and the University of Maryland report in the journal Angewandte Chemie, their gel is based on compounds synthesized from natural sugars.

All previously developed substances meant to selectively remove spilled oil from water and contain it have various disadvantages. These substances include dispersants that emulsify the oil, solid powders that adsorb the oil, and gelators that solidify the oil into a gel. In the past, polymers were primarily used, though they were difficult to mix with viscous types of oil and the retrieval of the bound oil was a very complex process.

John and his colleagues propose a new class of gelators based on naturally occurring sugar alcohols. John lists the advantages, “They are inexpensive, easy to produce, nontoxic, and biodegradable.” Gelators are constructed so that their molecules aggregate through a self-organization process into a three-dimensional network of fibers. This network sucks up the oil molecules and swells into a gel with an enormous capacity.

The researchers mixed different types of oil—ranging from crude oil to diesel, gasoline, and organic solvents—with water and added a few drops of the new gelator. This immediately formed a gel that separated from the water phase. The gel became so solid that it closed off the reaction flask like a cork. The flask could be inverted without any spillage of liquid. “In case of an oil spill, it would be relatively easy to collect the gel from the surface of the water,” says John. Simple distillation under vacuum is all that is needed to fully release oil from the gel. After separation, both the oil and the gelator are ready to be used again.

“We are optimistic that our sugar-based gelators provide an approach for the development of new materials to combat oil slicks on water, says John.

Author: George John, City College of New York (USA), http://www.sci.ccny.cuny.edu/~john/index.html

Title: Sugar-Derived Phase-Selective Molecular Gelators as Model Solidifiers for Oil Spills

Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Permalink to the article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.201002095

Alle Nachrichten aus der Kategorie: Life Sciences

Articles and reports from the Life Sciences area deal with applied and basic research into modern biology, chemistry and human medicine.

Valuable information can be found on a range of life sciences fields including bacteriology, biochemistry, bionics, bioinformatics, biophysics, biotechnology, genetics, geobotany, human biology, marine biology, microbiology, molecular biology, cellular biology, zoology, bioinorganic chemistry, microchemistry and environmental chemistry.

Zurück zur Startseite

Kommentare (0)

Schreib Kommentar

Neueste Beiträge

Cyanobacteria: Small Candidates …

… as Great Hopes for Medicine and Biotechnology In the coming years, scientists at the Chair of Technical Biochemistry at TU Dresden will work on the genomic investigation of previously…

Do the twist: Making two-dimensional quantum materials using curved surfaces

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have discovered a way to control the growth of twisting, microscopic spirals of materials just one atom thick. The continuously twisting stacks of two-dimensional…

Big-hearted corvids

Social life as a driving factor of birds’ generosity. Ravens, crows, magpies and their relatives are known for their exceptional intelligence, which allows them to solve complex problems, use tools…

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close