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Sponge-Like "Swelling Glass" Absorbs Toxins in Water

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the hungry-like-the-sponge dept.

Earth 93

MikeChino writes "A company called Absorbent Materials has created a new kind of 'swelling glass' that can clean up contaminated groundwater by soaking up volatile molecules like a sponge. Dubbed 'Obsorb,' the material can hold up to 8 times its weight in fuel, oil, and solvents without sucking up any of the water itself. Once the material is full it floats to the surface and the pollutants can be skimmed off."

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Is there any there, there? (2, Informative)

Magee_MC (960495) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730344)

Was that just a short press release with some random unrelated photos, or did I completely miss the boat on this one?

Re:Is there any there, there? (2, Informative)

jayme0227 (1558821) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730672)

Nope, that was pretty much it. I wasn't really sure what was going on. The summary was most of the article.

It is a neat idea, though. If it works, and is cheap, it could help many people in many places.

Re:Is there any there, there? (5, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730758)

They should sprinkle a few hundred tons on Wall Street. Imagine all the scum they could soak up there!

Re:Is there any there, there? (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732574)

Already been attempted ...at least once. Have you seen all the glass buildings in Wall Street? So much scum, so little purity. Any more glass and the place might disappear into a fractal dimension of its own creation. And take all of us with it. Let's not just for safety.

Re:Is there any there, there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30733470)

Heh, so that's way the cigar appeared in the landscape of the City of London. The reaction reminded of the sulphuric acid mixed with sugar, which is a fitting metaphor for the bonus system by the way.

Re:Is there any there, there? (0)

The Mighty Buzzard (878441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732558)

Who cares if it helps other people? This could finally lead to me being able to use the local tapwater to make a non-vile pot of coffee!

Re:Is there any there, there? (2, Insightful)

Chris Pimlott (16212) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730732)

I hate it when people use random unrelated photos, especially when the article is about a specific new product. If you don't have an image, don't insult your audience by misleading them.

And after absorbing all that gunk... (2, Insightful)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730352)

Does it all magically disappear?

Re:And after absorbing all that gunk... (1)

tonycheese (921278) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730404)

What?

Once the material is full it floats to the surface and the pollutants can be skimmed off.

Last sentence of the summary...

Re:And after absorbing all that gunk... (2, Informative)

tonycheese (921278) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730482)

Well, it seems someone below you has posted a similar question, so it isn't as stupid as I thought.
The website link says (there are only 3 or 4 sentences there...):

...can be skimmed off. Afterwards, it can be dropped back into the water and reused hundreds of times.

So the idea is you use it to make contaminated groundwater drinkable, then suck out the concentrated toxins and dispose of it in a better place than drinking water.

Re:And after absorbing all that gunk... (5, Insightful)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730666)

Nah, it was stupid. It's just that I wasn't the only stupid person here.

Re:And after absorbing all that gunk... (1)

xirusmom (815129) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732564)

"Once full, Obsorb floats to the surface, where it can be skimmed off with something as simple as a coffee filter. After that the pollutants can be retrieved and the glass can be reused hundreds of time. Nanoparticles of iron can also be added to convert TCE or PCE (another volatile organic compound) into harmless substances. As a low cost form of cleanup, swelling glass could provide site remediators with yet another in the growing list of non-conventional cleanup tools along with lactate, vitamin B-12, and even cattails." http://cleantechnica.com/2010/01/11/swelling-glass-cleans-polluted-water-like-a-sponge/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+cleantechnica%2Fcom+(CleanTechnica) [cleantechnica.com]

Re:And after absorbing all that gunk... (1)

Vahokif (1292866) | more than 4 years ago | (#30734642)

No, but it's better if it's in a landfill than a beach..

Re:And after absorbing all that gunk... (0, Redundant)

n3tcat (664243) | more than 4 years ago | (#30736504)

Does it all magically disappear?

TFA says you can skim the gunk off, then throw it back into the water to do it's work again, "hundreds of times".

Re:And after absorbing all that gunk... (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#30737358)

But where does the actual harmful gunk *go*?

How is it sequestered? Is it chemically neutralized, stored in vaults? Burned? And what problems do any of these solutions cause?

Re:And after absorbing all that gunk... (1)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 4 years ago | (#30740786)

They chip it to China, where it is used as raw material for making toys and medical devices.

This fixes all our problems (4, Funny)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730360)

A material wich can absorb all the toxens out of the water and when it is full all we need to do is grind it back into little pieces and flush it down the toilet and all our problems are solve.

Re:This fixes all our problems (3, Funny)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730456)

>>A material wich can absorb all the toxens out of the water and when it is full all we need to do is grind it back into little pieces and flush it down the toilet and all our problems are solve.

Narrator: Thus solving the problem for all time

Suzy: But...

Narrator: FOR ALL TIME.

Actually, my problem with this is the trade name. OBSORB sounds like OXYCLEAN or the SHAMWOW or all the other staples of late night TV.

Re:This fixes all our problems (2, Interesting)

Warhawke (1312723) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731256)

All very amusing political humor and shamwow references aside, it's a rare occasion where I can read a slashdot article and go "Wow, Cool!"

Neat and important creative advances like this pus back into me a little bit of the faith in humanity eroded by most of slashdot articles.

Re:This fixes all our problems (2, Funny)

Wayne247 (183933) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731922)

"Global Warming Or: None Like It Hot!"

Narrator: Of course, since the greenhouse gases are still building up, it takes more and more ice each time. Thus solving the problem once and for all.
Suzie: But--
Narrator: Once and for all!

"The End".

Jonnai (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30772298)

How DARE you! Shamwow NICE LADY!

Spelling? (5, Informative)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730390)

TFA refers to the material as Obsorb, but a linked page [absmaterials.com] refers to it as Osorb.

So which is it?

Re:Spelling? (4, Funny)

Joe Snipe (224958) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730614)

TFA refers to the material as Obsorb, but a linked page refers to it as Osorb.

Clearly the b was toxic

Re:Spelling? (2, Funny)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731898)

Was it a killer b?

Re:Spelling? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30732832)

TFA refers to the material as Obsorb, but a linked page refers to it as Osorb.

Clearly the b was toxic

Quick! Somebody trademark the name "Osor"

Re:Spelling? (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30730676)

It was Obsorb, but it absorbed the first toxic b. Eventually it'll just be Osor, having rid itself of all the toxic bs.

Re:Spelling? (1)

crazycheetah (1416001) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731252)

Wouldn''t it be Oor in order to really remove all the toxic bs?

Re:Spelling? (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731706)

It was really the 'bs' that was toxic and it was neutralized by removing the 'b'. Overanalyze silly jokes much?

Re:Spelling? (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 4 years ago | (#30735244)

BS can't be toxic, there's loads in circulation in management circles without any ill effects... well, I suppose mental retardation is a pretty strong side effect isn't it?

Really short on details. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30730408)

I seriously can't find anything about this online. Not a thing other than this particular press release. This tells me nothing about how it works, how to clean the obsorb, how much this stuff costs, how it is made... How can I not find a single thing about this?

Re:Really short on details. (5, Informative)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730884)

Google is your friend. Apparently, this all centers around the use of zero-valent iron (which seems to merely be atomic iron without any binding).More info here: http://www.clu-in.org/download/remed/542-f-08-009.pdf [clu-in.org] Warning: PDF. Apparently, this is a hot topic, and Osorb isn't the only material out there using nanoZVI for cleaning purposes.

Interesting stuff. Hadn't heard of it before.

Capitalism (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30730416)

This product is a reason why I love capitalism. New and cool stuff all the time. I hope they don't do anything anti-market to this product, like patenting it.

Re:Capitalism (1)

Dotren (1449427) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730790)

This product is a reason why I love capitalism. New and cool stuff all the time. I hope they don't do anything anti-market to this product, like patenting it.

Yes, until they take the crud they absorbed and bury it underground right on top of the water table, because that ends up being the cheapest way to dispose of it for one reason or another.

Now that I think of it, that would also in turn increase demand for their product.. its like having their cake and eating it over and over and over!

Joking aside, it does seem interesting if it actually pans out to be a real product.

Re:Capitalism (1)

crazycheetah (1416001) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731274)

It is patented... a previous poster posted a link that explained this.

Re:Capitalism (1)

xirusmom (815129) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732590)

Capitalism? The guy has NSF funding....

In depth explanation? (1)

Taibhsear (1286214) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730422)

I didn't see anything in the article that tells exactly how the science behind it works. Is it granulated particles? Normal sponge sized? Fiberglass like? How are the toxins removed from the material after use? etc. I assume some of it they might not be able to divulge due to pending patents or whatever, but a little more info might help to determine if it's viable or just vaporware.

Re:In depth explanation? (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730830)

I'm also curious show this stuff can absorb the pollution out of the water instead of just filling up with water.

Re:In depth explanation? (2, Informative)

idontgno (624372) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731024)

It might fill up with water. If that happens, then clearly the water was the contaminant.

Now you have considerably purified your water slick, leaving only pure environmentally-friendly petroleum in your bays. Think of how happy* the salmon, the seabirds, and the plankton will be!

*Claim void if it turns out that ocean life live in water, not petroleum. You mileage may vary.

Re:In depth explanation? (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731160)

Thanks for the clarification. I figured there was some perfectly reasonable explanation I was missing.

Fish oil is supposed to be really healthy stuff, this sounds like it could make my sashimi even better for me. Can't wait!

Re:In depth explanation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30732088)

You mock, but a similar product that could clean the contaminants out of petrochemicals would probably make more money...

Re:In depth explanation? (1)

Christoffer777 (991273) | more than 4 years ago | (#30734996)

Let us hope it is not vaporware. I am not sure all those toxins in a gaseous form would be very safe.

A vacuum cleaner (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30730426)

Why not use a vacuum cleaner for the ocean instead. Suck up water and filter it through a steel mesh and I think it will be more effective.

Re:A vacuum cleaner (1)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731462)

I know I'm feeding the troll, but if you replace the steel mesh by an Obsorb (tm) (c) (whatever) filter, this might actually work for high-precision cleanups.

Shamwow (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30730430)

Holds up to 20 TIMES its weight in fuel, oil, and solvents. Doesn't drip, doesn't make a mess. Contaminated antarctic penguins use it as a towel.

Re:Shamwow (2, Insightful)

BlindSpot (512363) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730586)

That was my first thought until I read more closely... this thing purportedly won't absorb the water, only the contaminants within. So, unlike ShamWow, you could put a load of this material in a lake without soaking up the entire lake.

Re:Shamwow (1, Funny)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730646)

TFA: apply it to your forehead!
TFA: apply it to your forehead!
TFA: apply it to your forehead!

Re:Shamwow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30730772)

TFA: apply directly to the forehead!

TFA: apply directly to the forehead!

TFA: apply directly to the forehead!

Fixed.

Re:Shamwow (1)

malkir (1031750) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730806)

LOL'D

Re:Shamwow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30739994)

I think I'll wait until I can set it and forget it.

Re:Shamwow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30734308)

The real question is whether or not its made in Germany. Because you know the Germans always make good stuff.

Sounds excellent. What will it cost? (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730444)

It sounds like an excellent solution, and depending on what else is in the compound besides glass (is it a process thing or does it depend on exotic chemistry?) it could be a quite a breakthrough. The summary implies it could be used for cleaning oil spills - if it can be made in bulk, but it also could be very useful in cartridge filters. Innovations like this can change the world for the better, in small increments. Good tech adds up.

Re:Sounds excellent. What will it cost? (4, Interesting)

knarfling (735361) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730716)

Cost is an excellent question, since there is already a product that does something similar that has been around since at least 2007.
PRP (Petroleum Remediation Product) is made from beeswax and soaks up oils as well. Since it is so light, it floats on water and only absorbs the oils. The bee's wax encourages naturally occurring micro-organisms to eat. The microbes feast on the bee's wax and don't stop eating until all the oil is gone, safely, naturally bio-degrading the petroleum and the PRP itself.
I understand that they mix ground up corncobs into the PRP to make a version that works without water and can bio-degrade oil on land.

I can see only three reasons for the glass version.
1. If it is cheaper to make
2. Since you clean it rather than let it decompose, it is reusable. But the costs of making and cleaning still have to be cheaper than the cost of PRP.
3. If the glass version will absorb chemicals that cannot be degraded by the micro-organisms that feed on the beeswax.

Re:Sounds excellent. What will it cost? (2, Informative)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731092)

This seems to be based on atomic iron in some form of nanoscale dust. As a result, its application seems to be much wider than just absorbing hydrocarbons. As an example, there are a few papers that studied the decomposition of atrazine in the presence of nanoZVI. Apparently,it's pretty successful.

Re:Sounds excellent. What will it cost? (1)

D Ninja (825055) | more than 4 years ago | (#30733494)

Reason 4 - You recover whatever it is that you're cleaning up from the glass. This is particularly useful for oil spills if you think about how much oil is wasted in a decent sized oil spill. (And, I'm sure oil companies do not want to let all that profit go to waste.)

Re:Sounds excellent. What will it cost? (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | more than 4 years ago | (#30735636)

Will make excellent petrol bombs.

Re:Sounds excellent. What will it cost? (1)

hawkfish (8978) | more than 4 years ago | (#30772394)

1. If it is cheaper to make.

Last time I checked, there was a lot more silica in the world than bees. Plus the silica is not being devastated by disease...

Interesting, (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30730464)

Nancy Pelosi is capable of the same thing

Alternative, Why Not Just Dump The Radioactive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30730492)

waste into the soil as Babcock and Wilcox [pittsburghlive.com] did ?

  .

Yours In Novosibirsk,
K. Trout

Yes but... (2, Funny)

Dishwasha (125561) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730548)

has it been taste tested by a Nibblonian [wikipedia.org] ?

Skim the contaminants off the top (1)

hadesan (664029) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730554)

Floats to the surface and skim the contaminants off the top??? Quite the trick if it absorbs some sort of heavy metals. Exactly how does it not drip yet you skim the material off the top. Who get's to squeeze the contaminants out?

Obviously... (1)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730644)

Who get's to squeeze the contaminants out?

The groups that are least able to defend themselves from hazardous workplace.

Re:Obviously... (1)

zuzulo (136299) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731060)

No, no, you dont squeeze the contaminants out, you refine em out. Presto instead of a cost center disposal has become a profit center. ;-)

Only problem is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30730652)

that it's made only from cloned human embryonic stem cells harvested at the 33rd trimester.

I can see the kids version already (2, Funny)

Evil_Ether (1200695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730678)

Sponge-like Bobsorb Swelling Glass

Wait a second . . . (1)

bittles (1619071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730682)

To hell with the robots coming down on us. Isn't this the way "The Blob" was created?

Re:Wait a second . . . (1)

KermodeBear (738243) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730792)

The Blob [imdb.com] came from a meteorite.

Re:Wait a second . . . (1)

bittles (1619071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730894)

Not that one, the reboot coming out in 2015. I heard Michael Bay is directing it.

Re:Wait a second . . . (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731212)

Interesting. I heard Michael Moore already directed and starred in it.

Re:Wait a second . . . (1)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731486)

Hey, B.O.B. was a pretty nice guy. Just look at http://us.imdb.com/media/rm3900803840/tt0892782

I have to wonder (1)

LockeOnLogic (723968) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730744)

Given that groundwater is not just freestanding water like a pool, what's the prevent this large piece of material from getting stuck on the dirt around it rather than floating to the top to be skimmed.

Re:I have to wonder (1)

Tanman (90298) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730870)

If it can hold onto the contaminant, isn't that still better than the alternative?

Re:I have to wonder (2, Interesting)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731266)

I would assume that this would be used in an above-ground treatment plant, given that water wells can be a thousand feet deep, but only a couple inches wide. This process is generally refereed to as "pump and treat", because you pump the water out of the ground, treat it and discharge to some surface body or use it for another application. As you draw down the water table, it causes the surrounding water to be drawn into the system as well, this prevents the contaminated groundwater from migrating down-gradient.

Typically you may use a carbon adsorption system for this application, since carbon will adsorb any kind of organic compound. Once the carbon is full, you treat it and reuse it, or you dispose of it by some other means. Granulated activated carbon is the material they would have to beat in order to make a good business case.

One of two things (1)

Improv (2467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730752)

Either this thing is the bee's knees and will make a huge impact, or it's some mix of snake oil and too expensive. As usual, we're safest assuming the latter until we at least have details.

Wait! It's ICE-9. (1)

1024 (537568) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730754)

Watch out, everything becomes glass!

An improved silica gel (2, Insightful)

TheHawke (237817) | more than 4 years ago | (#30730816)

Glass - Silica.

Silica Gel - absorbent glass.

Easy, huh?

Re:An improved silica gel (1)

Danny Rathjens (8471) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731046)

Astute correlation to silica. However, silica gel adsorbs water which is why it is used in those little desiccant packets to keep stuff dry. This material allegedly does not.

Re:An improved silica gel (1)

DotDotSlashDot (1207864) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731556)

I've been thinking a lot about several varieties of aerogel products lately. Aerogel is 95% air and is hydrophobic, yet will absorb light oils. To the extent that it can de-homogenize oil and water suspensions, it would be useful as a separating agent. Oil-saturated aerogel should be lighter than water and rise to the top. This would also facilitate centrifugal separation of oil-laden mud. The oils can then be removed from the aerogel with moderate heat. Then you get to recycle both the aerogel and the oil. I'd be surprised if there are no patents covering this.

Re:An improved silica gel (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732420)

> Easy, huh?

Yes. Wrong, but easy. Soda-lime glass, the kind you are probably thinking of, has more in it than silica. But these guys are chemists. To a chemist "glass" is a term for a large class of materials, some containing no silica at all.

Volitile chemicals? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731196)

So, it removes stuff that would've just evaporated off pretty quickly anyway? yipee.

Aerogel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30732192)

i wonder if aerogel was the inspiration?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerogel
"NASA used aerogel to trap space dust particles aboard the Stardust spacecraft. The particles vaporize on impact with solids and pass through gases, but can be trapped in aerogels"

Those are not "toxins" (3, Informative)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732308)

They may be "toxic" but they are not "toxins". Example of toxin: Botox(TM), which stands for botulic toxin. A toxin is a toxic substance created by an organism.

Re:Those are not "toxins" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30733802)

I don't understand what you're toxin about.

So basically.... (1)

ProppaT (557551) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732384)

So basically what you're saying is that we can build small scale models of stuff, pee on them for a few days, and they'll turn into the real deal. Kinda like those little dinosaur toys that you put in water and they grow to fill the glass. I'm down with that.

groundwater means water IN the ground... (1)

OpinionatedDude (1323007) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732520)

groundwater |groundwôtr; -wätr| noun water held underground in the soil or in pores and crevices in rock. Me thinks this is a bogus article about a bogus "invention" by a bogus company. Water ON the ground is sometimes called "a flood", and sometimes called "a lake", depending upon whether or not the condition is chronic.

Re:groundwater means water IN the ground... (1)

OpinionatedDude (1323007) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732612)

Having just committed the ultimate /. sin, I read the company info after posting. TFA erroneously combined the properties of two different products from the company with similar names. The product that is used on groundwater is intended only to grab and hold harmless the bad stuff, not for removing it from the ground.

What about the good moleculed? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732986)

So when you put this in water, it creates distilled water?

Good luck keeping the fish and plants alive with that stuff...

Spongebob? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30733210)

Does it live in a pineapple under the sea?

A lucrative use? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30733514)

2 words: Biodiesel Harvesting

cleaning up sea water as well? (1)

Pflipp (130638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30734686)

Great Pacific Garbage Patch [wikipedia.org] , here we come!

but, but, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30734730)

i like the toxins, they're the best part.

Distillation? (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 4 years ago | (#30735336)

Does alcohol count as 'volatile molecules'?
I can see some applications for this as a way of making better moonshine.
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