What's New

Pollen Sponge for Marine Oil Spills

Humans may be allergic to plant pollens, but nature is not. Now, a team of scientists, led by NTU Singapore and Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea, has created a reusable, biodegradable sponge made from pollen. The sponges can readily soak up oil and other organic solvents from contaminated water sources without harming the environment in the way that standard chemical-based clean-up products are prone to do.

Made of sunflower pollen, the sponge is hydrophobic – it repels water – thanks to a coat of natural fatty acid on the sponge. In lab experiments, the scientists showed the sponge’s ability to absorb oil contaminants of various densities, such as gasoline and motor oil, at a rate comparable to that of commercial oil absorbents.

Photo Credit NTU Singapore

Oil spills are difficult to clean up, and result in severe long-lasting damage to the marine ecosystem. Conventional clean-up methods, including using chemical dispersants to break oil down into very small droplets, or absorbing it with expensive, unrecyclable materials, may worsen the damage.

The scientists believes that these sponges, when scaled up, could be an eco-friendly alternative to tackle marine oil spills.

This study builds on NTU’s body of work on finding new uses for pollen, known as the diamond of the plant kingdom for its hard exterior, by transforming its tough shell into microgel particles. This soft, gel-like material is then used as a building block for a new category of environmentally sustainable materials.

Read about more about the sponge creation process in The Engineer.

Source: Nanyang University, The Engineer.

About Tom Breunig (203 Articles)
Tom Breunig is principal at Cleantech Concepts, a market research firm tracking R&D projects in the cleantech sector. He is a technology industry veteran and former international marketing and communications executive who has worked with organizations in semiconductor design, water monitoring, energy efficiency and environmental sensing. He has spoken at numerous technology and energy conferences.
Contact: Twitter

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.