Nanoblanket cleans up last traces of oil


IT’S just 50 micrometres thick, shrugs off water for weeks, but soaks up 20 times its weight in oil. The thirsty membrane, designed to clean up the last traces of an oil spill, is made up of a spaghetti-like tangle of manganese oxide nanowires coated with silicon. The wires create a rough surface that traps air and repels water. Any oily substance in the water that touches the dry surface is sucked into the membrane through capillary action, says developer Francesco Stellacci of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Nature Nanotechnology, DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2008.136). “Our material can be left in water for a month or two,
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