Raw Cotton Might Help Clean Up Oil Spills

Specialists document new potential way of dealing with oil spills

A new research paper documents the possibility of using raw cotton in order to clean up any accidental spills that might occur while the oil industry is busy carrying on with its working agenda.

The study, made available to the public in the latest issue of the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, argues that, apart from its being highly efficiency in terms of sopping up oil, unprocessed cotton is also an environmentally-friendly way of dealing with such accidents.

In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, several specialists have argued that the time has come for the scientific community to roll out new and improved ways of tackling such unexpected issues.

Unlike other means of cleaning up oil spill, unprocessed cotton happens to be rather cheap, not to mention the fact that it is sustainable and biodegradable, ACS explains.

The same source reports that the researchers now claiming that raw cotton might serve to clean up oil spills reached this conclusion after looking into the sorption properties of a form of unprocessed cotton that has little commercial value.

Thus, they say that just 1 pound (0.45 kilograms) of micronaire cotton is fairly capable of collecting and holding on to about 30 pounds (roughly 13.6 kilograms) of crude oil.

The cotton does so both by absorbing and by adsorbing the oil. Absorption refers to the oil's being taken up by the cotton's volume, while adsorption refers to its clinging to the surface of the cotton.

“Results showed at the minimum level, low micronaire raw cotton has 30.5 g/g crude oil sorption capacity. Furthermore, the crude oil sorption capacity of low micronaire cotton was significantly higher than the sorption capacity of high micronaire cotton,” the researchers write in their report.

“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,” they go on to explain.

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