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Cloth Successfully Separates Oil From Gulf Water

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the now-to-try-it-on-cats-and-dogs dept.

Earth 327

Chinobi writes "Di Gao, an assistant professor at the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, has developed a method of separating oil from water within just seconds using a cotton cloth coated in a chemical polymer that makes it both hydrophilic (it bonds with the hydrogen atoms in water) and oleophobic (oil-repelling), making it absolutely perfect for blocking oil and letting water pass through. Gao tested his filter successfully on Gulf Oil water and oil and has an impressive video to demonstrate the results." This is a laboratory demonstration; the technology hasn't been tested at scale.

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so (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32499712)

first

does it come with dinner plates
and a spoon

Awesome (1, Funny)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32499714)

Now how about we figure out a way to clean up the marshes that got fucked with an oil-slicked spiked baseball bat?

Re:Awesome (2, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 4 years ago | (#32499934)

You're right - because someone came up with an elegant, no-moving-parts, no-training-needed design to clean the seawater, but it doesn't clean up the marshlands, it's useless.

Re:Awesome (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500154)

There are plenty of methods out there that work in open water. There are practically zero methods that work in marshland.

Just sayin'.

Re:Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32500334)

There are plenty of methods out there that work in open water. There are practically zero methods that work in marshland.

Just sayin'.

If you're not satisfied with the work of others maybe you should get out there and make it happen. I'm just sayin'

Re:Awesome (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500484)

If you're not satisfied with the work of others maybe you should get out there and make it happen. I'm just sayin'

It's frustration with the whole situation, not necessarily dissapointment with this particular researcher. Obviously, having another solution to clean up the oil is a good thing, regardless of which oil it's cleaning up...I would just like to see more attention paid to taking care of what has already arrived on shore, that's all.

Re:Awesome (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32500490)

There are plenty of methods out there that work in open water. There are practically zero methods that work in marshland.

Just sayin'.

If you're not satisfied with the work of others maybe you should get out there and make it happen. I'm just sayin'

Maybe the ones that caused the spill should be the ones "making it happen."

Re:Awesome (-1, Flamebait)

Chris Tucker (302549) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500744)

It's spelled "Just Saying.

Dropping the 'g' when speaking makes you sound stupid. Dropping the 'g' in text merely proves it.

Re:Awesome (0)

AltairDusk (1757788) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500556)

Now how about we figure out a way to clean up the marshes that got fucked with an oil-slicked spiked baseball bat?

I fail to see how bad situation Y calls for sarcastic dismissal of a possible solution to bad situation X. Any developments in oil cleanup are good right now and if this can be scaled up quickly enough it could do a lot of good and help prevent even more oil from reaching the marshes.

Re:Awesome (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500668)

I know, I know...I realized that after I put up my original post -_-;;

My response to another poster in this thread [slashdot.org] :

It's frustration with the whole situation, not necessarily dissapointment with this particular researcher. Obviously, having another solution to clean up the oil is a good thing, regardless of which oil it's cleaning up...I would just like to see more attention paid to taking care of what has already arrived on shore, that's all.

Too late probably, but... (4, Insightful)

alfredos (1694270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32499720)

...Unfortunately there will be a next time.

Re:Too late probably, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32499790)

A cloth not enough? Actually, timely to stop the flow right now. They should isolate small "islands" of oil this way and burn the oil.. island by island...

Re:Too late probably, but... (0, Troll)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#32499824)

With cloth that we don't have, because it isn't being mass produced. That's why it's too late.

Re:Too late probably, but... (1)

drachenstern (160456) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500100)

according to TFS you coat a common cloth with a particular chemical... sounds ready made to me.

Re:Too late probably, but... (2, Insightful)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500224)

according to TFS you coat a common cloth with a particular chemical... sounds ready made to me.

Easily-made is not the same as already made. How many thousands (or millions?) of square feet do you think are needed? How long do you think it would take to make that much by hand? How long do you think it would take to retool a production line to start producing it?

I can conceivably see this being deployed while we are still dealing with the aftermath, but it is definitely too late for most of the areas that really could have benefitted from this. It will be a token contribution for this spill, nothing significant.

Re:Too late probably, but... (1)

Danse (1026) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500536)

according to TFS you coat a common cloth with a particular chemical... sounds ready made to me.

Easily-made is not the same as already made. How many thousands (or millions?) of square feet do you think are needed? How long do you think it would take to make that much by hand? How long do you think it would take to retool a production line to start producing it?

I can conceivably see this being deployed while we are still dealing with the aftermath, but it is definitely too late for most of the areas that really could have benefitted from this. It will be a token contribution for this spill, nothing significant.

BP has more money than God and could easily make it happen if they had the will to do so.

Re:Too late probably, but... (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500616)

BP has more money than God and could easily make it happen if they had the will to do so.

So if one woman can produce a baby in 9 months, 9 women could make a baby in 1 month? Maybe if you only pay them enough?

Having money helps, but there's still a limit on how fast things can happen. Really, to make a significant contribution to cleanup, there would need to be reasonable production (if not relatively large stockpiles) two months ago. You know, before the oil was coming ashore to wetlands and islands.

Well, just you just keep on driving (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500248)

The easy oil is gone, they're having to drill in 5000 feet of water now, so of course there will be a next time.
 

Re:Well, just you just keep on driving (1)

e9th (652576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500534)

5000 feet? No problem. Why, just last September a rig called the Deepwater Horizon drilled a hole at a record-setting 30,000 feet.

Oh, wait.

Re:Well, just you just keep on driving (2, Informative)

tsalmark (1265778) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500746)

Deepwater Horizon drilled a hole under 5000 feet of water. The depth of the drill hole through bedrock is 30,000 feet. While the bole hole is a feat, the trouble capping the well is more related to the depth of the water above the well not the depth of the well itself.

Re:Well, just you just keep on driving (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32500602)

Easy oil isn't gone. It's just banned.

Re:Well, just you just keep on driving (1, Insightful)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500726)

The easy oil is gone, they're having to drill in 5000 feet of water now, so of course there will be a next time.

No, the "easy" oil is there in nice, safe, relatively shallow water where leaks/spills etc would be comparatively trivial to deal with, but environmental interests have forced rigs further and further offshore in an attempt to effectively halt/limit offshore oil drilling by making it too expensive & difficult for the oil companies, while being able to claim they're not trying to stop offshore drilling, just being good stewards of the planet.

So, rather than having a shallow-water rig where any leak or blowout can be swiftly, safely, and effectively dealt with, we have the current situation. I'm sure the wildlife that has and will die, along with the fishing and tourist industries, appreciates the intentions, just maybe not the outcome so much.

Strat

Re:Too late probably, but... (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500420)

There doesn't have to be.

What happened here was the result of shoddy implementation of known technology to prevent the sort of surge that induced the explosion.

After that, it became a tragedy of absent foresight in the technology of what to do if all you have is a pipe sticking out of the sea floor.

There are a finite number of things involved, and they have a finite number of failure mechanisms, all of which can likely be controlled for. If you can prove they can't, rather than claiming it or just implying you fear it, then we probably shouldn't do it.

BP, TransOcean, and Halliburton failed to control those things; and Congress and the Administration and the regulatory agency failed to control them (or rather, actively decontrolled them under Messrs. Bush and Cheney, leaving behind enough confusion and apathy that the succeeding administration actually approved similar activities).

Doing in a lab is one thing (3, Insightful)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32499740)

Doing it on a massive scale in the Gulf of Mexico is something else entirely.

While this might prove useful in future spills, it would seem to me to be very unlikely that it could be brought up to scale fast enough to help with the current problem

Re:Doing in a lab is one thing (5, Insightful)

pianoman113 (204449) | more than 4 years ago | (#32499988)

9 years ago, a great deal of military technology went from lab to massive scale rather quickly for new bombs to wreak havoc in cave strongholds. Why is BP or some other interested party with deep pockets unable to do the same here?

We have an existing crisis and a potential solution. Somebody pony up the cash and start producing this. Its a risk, but if effective there is a great deal of profit to be made in the event of another oil spill.

Calling any entrepreneurs...

Re:Doing in a lab is one thing (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500316)

9 years ago, a great deal of military technology went from lab to massive scale rather quickly for new bombs to wreak havoc in cave strongholds. Why is BP or some other interested party with deep pockets unable to do the same here?

There is more profit to be made in destruction than salvation.

Now that I'm doing being an ass, I completely agree with you. If something like this does work as well as they say it is, there's no reason to not implement it into the cleanup strategy asap.

Re:Doing in a lab is one thing (3, Insightful)

schon (31600) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500472)

a great deal of military technology went from lab to massive scale rather quickly for new bombs to wreak havoc in cave strongholds. Why is BP or some other interested party with deep pockets unable to do the same here?

Because there's no money in cleaning it up, and a lot of expense.

We have an existing crisis and a potential solution. Somebody pony up the cash and start producing this. Its a risk, but if effective there is a great deal of profit to be made in the event of another oil spill.

Therein lies the problem. BP estimated the likelihood of the current spill as "so close to zero that it doesn't matter". Ask any oil company what the chances are of another spill, and you'll get "so close to zero that it doesn't matter." So why should they spend all this money on something that will never happen?

Environmental issues are externalities - and it would be socialism to force companies to deal with externalities. After all, we're all responsible for the Gulf spill, because of our demand for oil. And anyway, if you tried to enact a law, they would just shut down and open up under a different name. Let the invisible market fairy handle this, she will make it all go away!

Re:Doing in a lab is one thing (5, Insightful)

aplusjimages (939458) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500210)

Clean up is going to take years, so there's time.

Re:Doing in a lab is one thing (2, Informative)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500504)

Worth pointing out that the safety valve that was supposed to prevent this thing, all the plans to stop the flow at the source, and all the dispersants being used to reduce the effects of the oil... all those had never been properly tested either. I think the safety valve had been tested at half the depth it was being used at? So if we make sure it's not going to do any -harm- then we're at least -improving-, even if we don't test efficiency first before we deploy it.

Great for filtering, but - (2, Insightful)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 4 years ago | (#32499772)

I would think what you want for an oil cleanup is a material that is oleophilic but hydrophobic,IOW, just the opposite. Dip it in the water, oil sticks, pull it out, oil stays in, water rolls off. Squeeze the oil out into an appropriate receptacle, repeat.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32499844)

How do you clean and reuse your cloth? This guy: just pour the oil off the cloth and repeat. Yours only allows for a small amount to be collected before some kind of complicated rinse has to be done.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500054)

Squeeze?

Re:Great for filtering, but - (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500312)

Squeeze?

Try squeezing a wet towel, you won't get all the water out. Now imagine this towel absorbs oil instead of water; you'll have a hell of a time getting all the oil out.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (0, Redundant)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500544)

Try squeezing a wet towel, you won't get all the water out.

So what? You don't want to get it all out. All you need to do is get enough out that it's no longer saturated and can absorb more water. A wet towel absorbs water faster than a dry one because you don't have surface tension to worry about, and the same's probably true with oil. Run the saturated cloth through a wringer to press out most of the oil into a containment vessel, then spread it out again to pick up more.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500690)

It's actually a solved problem. My father works in industrial chemicals and tramp or waste oil leaking into coolant systems is a major problem, they already have continuous cloth systems that pull the oil out of the water and then squeeze it out. The problem is that they can only handle so many gallons per hour and so much concentration of oil.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (1)

ImNotAtWork (1375933) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500382)

You use a massive gill wheel or something similar on a oil vessel http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Drawing_of_a_gill_netter.gif [wikipedia.org] . (The equipment does exist.) Then you put some type of collector below the gill net collector with tubing into the tanks. As the collector wheel brings more and more net/cloth in squeezing will take place and it will drop into the tanks. It will be a messy and probably dangerous job but this Gulf is a food source to a lot of people.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (1)

ImNotAtWork (1375933) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500404)

an* oil tanker vessel

Re:Great for filtering, but - (4, Insightful)

dmatos (232892) | more than 4 years ago | (#32499858)

You could potentially use big trawling nets of this stuff to sieve the oil out of the gulf, just like fishermen use trawling nets to sieve fish out of the water. Scoop up a big bucket of oil+water, wait for the water to drain out, then pour the oil into a reservoir on the boat. Repeat.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (2, Interesting)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500452)

What does this mean for all the sea life that gets pulled into these trawling nets?

Re:Great for filtering, but - (5, Funny)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500538)

Prepped and ready for deep frying?

Re:Great for filtering, but - (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32500548)

What does this mean for all the sea life that gets pulled into these trawling nets?

A life slightly shorter than it would have been had they drowned with their gills coated with oil.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (4, Interesting)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500612)

Here's a very unpleasant answer:

Shrimp, fish, squid, etc -- If they were in the oily water, they were dead anyway. They "breath" by pulling that water through gills or similar arrangements. Such surfaces will be clogged with oil and the animals will die.

Mammals and birds have a better chance, and it seems like a skimmer like this gets them into the boat and gives rescuers a chance to wash them. They're probably better off in the boat than out of it.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (1)

Danse (1026) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500614)

What does this mean for all the sea life that gets pulled into these trawling nets?

That they were probably pretty screwed to begin with? I guess you can just throw them back in.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500518)

Looks like we slagged the server again so I didn't RTFA - but if it really is a coating that can generically be applied to cotton cloth, then you could conceivably coat old clothes that would generally be dumped on the third world and toss them into a modified seining or trawling net, fill the cloth up with oil, drag it over to a tender with separation facilities (ie, a big drum with a press or similar), squeeze the oil out and process it and reuse the cloth.

Something that could be tested industrially on fairly short order. Of course, you would have to make sure that this chemical doesn't cause more problems than the oil (there are such chemicals). American ingenuity. Using technology to save itself from technology....

Re:Great for filtering, but - (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500524)

Use a pump to bring oil and water onto the boat, and run it through a huge coiled tube of this stuff. The water can spill out the sides and the oil will exit the other end into the hold.

The only question is whether the coating on the cloth is durable or needs to be replenished, and what kinds of pressures the cloth can take, and can it be knitted on existing looms.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32500570)

I see green-peace people complaining that this is not an appropriate way to solve the problem. Likely, you will not just obtain oil, but all sorts of sea-life. That's not my opinion, but something I perceive being brought up as a problem. Personally, I think what you said is exactly what ought to be done.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (4, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#32499866)

I would think what you want for an oil cleanup is a material that is oleophilic but hydrophobic,IOW, just the opposite.

It's probably the difference between having a mop (your proposal) and a strainer (his creation). Depending on a variety of factors either one might be preferable for cleanup.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#32499970)

The summary mentions using it to protect wetlands. This is particularly preferable to using sand berms, as they change the salinity of the area (no more salt water coming from the sea) which can be deadly to the habitat. A barrier of this cloth around sensitive wetland habitats would protect the habitat from oil, while still allowing the water to be properly brackish. As you said, it's another tool beyond those on open water actually removing the oil from the water.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (3, Insightful)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | more than 4 years ago | (#32499902)

With this (assuming it works at scale) you can "push" the oil to where you want it to go, meaning that if they deployed large ones on the surface they could gradually "herd" all the oil into one place to be siphoned off... or rather, they could, if BP hadn't injected all those dispersants making it end up god-knows-where.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500406)

or rather, they could, if BP hadn't injected all those dispersants making it end up god-knows-where.

Good point, might the dispersant defeat this technique? If it makes the oil dissolve in water, it may no longer be non-polar, and thus no longer repelled.

Good point (2, Interesting)

Benfea (1365845) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500410)

As has been noted by many before, coagulants would have been a better idea for cleanup, but dispersants proved to be more important to the task of making the oil slick look smaller in all those satellite photos. What's more important? Cleaning up this stuff, or reducing the PR damage to BP?

Re:Great for filtering, but - (1)

CaptSlaq (1491233) | more than 4 years ago | (#32499910)

I think the idea is that you can load a cartridge with this material, and insert it inline with a pump. You run any sort of boat with a bilge pump at that point over your spill and go to town.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (1)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500128)

Unfortunately, for your suggestion to work, the oil would need to pass thru the filter, not the water. Just putting it in line with a hose would do is pump water out of the hose and leave the oil on the other side of the hose (to eventually clog the works and create a huge back-pressure on the pump) since only the water passes thru the filter. What this can do is let you fill a huge tank full of oil/water mix and then pump out the water, leaving you with mostly oil in the tank. You could also create skimmers of this to skim the oil off the water much like you skim debris in a pool. The oil would be in the skimmers and you would need to dump it into a collection tank. Depending on how strong the material is (i.e. how much weight it can hold), you could create massive skimmers and use it like a fish net, but instead of fish, you get oil. However, you would also get whatever else is in there, like any organism which might happen to get trapped in the "net".

Re:Great for filtering, but - (2, Interesting)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500736)

Actually, some sort of pumping system with this as part of a centrifuge should work well. The pipe goes into a spinning section of rigid membrane pipe. The oil gets spinning in the pipe. Water spins out, since it passes through the membrane, and oil stays in the pipe. The oil keeps going wherever it's being pumped to. This solves several problems, such as waiting for the water to slowly sink out, the cranes and manual labor involved in lifting and draining, etc.

That is, if there are pumps that work well with oily water... There must be, right?

Re:Great for filtering, but - (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32499956)

Maybe you should read the article.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (2, Insightful)

Orange Crush (934731) | more than 4 years ago | (#32499958)

But filtering is probably the behavior you want. Much of the gulf spill is a microns-thick rainbow-colored sheen on the surface of the water, and there's really no way to clean that up or burn it off beyond letting nature take its course. If you can run a bunch of supertankers around the oil slick Roomba style, they could pump large volumes of oil and seawater through filters like these, dump the clean water and hold on to the oil. If the filters work well enough, it might be possible to circle the whole slick and keep it confined away from shore.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (1)

ZirbMonkey (999495) | more than 4 years ago | (#32499984)

It would make a great oil sponge, but you'd need to ring out the cloth every minute. But at least you'd have a method for pulling oil out of the water. Perhaps trolling long sheets of it, and ringing out the oil every time it's rolled in...

When the cloth repels oil, the cloth stays porous, and water keeps passing through. You can literally herd the oil like catching fish. I'm not sure how salt and ocean debris would make the filter work in the real ocean The oleophobic cloth filter would plug up with everything else.

Re:Great for filtering, which is what you want (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32499992)

If you use the cloth as an oil-sponge, then the amount of oil you can pick up is limited by the absorbency of the cloth. Any excess oil will seep through the cloth and continue polluting the water. The practicality of just squeezing it out is also questionable, since you have to do it every time the cloth becomes oil-logged (which would be very quick).

If instead it's an oil filter, then you can put as much oil-laden water through it as you want, with the oil remaining on one side, with the cloth absorbing some water and the rest passing through. For example you could pump the oil-water mix into a tank with a funnel in the bottom with this cloth as a barrier. In goes oil and water, out comes just water, with the amount of oil you can separate with a single cloth being limited only by the size of the oil container and perhaps the strength of the cloth.

Absorption isn't bad if it's practical, like the use of hair clippings to soak up oil. But as that example shows, you naturally need much more material to deal with the same amount of oil.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (1)

ekimminau (775300) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500048)

"I would think what you want for an oil cleanup is a material that is oleophilic but hydrophobic,IOW, just the opposite. Dip it in the water, oil sticks, pull it out, oil stays in, water rolls off. Squeeze the oil out into an appropriate receptacle, repeat."

Actually, letting water pass through but not letting oil stick would let you create a huge net. Water passes through but oil doesn't. Then you haul the net up, all the water drains away and you dump the oil into a containment hold. Non sticks to net. Repeat.

Perfect!

Re:Great for filtering, but - (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32500064)

Ah, I love it when random people on the internet think that the scientists are doing it wrong and that their own idea is so much better.

You honestly think the scientists didn't already think of and completely dismiss your idea?

Re:Thinking backwards (1)

Random2 (1412773) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500256)

Instead of trying to push the oil around or filter it out of the water, the primary use of this cloth could be to stop more oil form leaking form the pipe. Simply wrap the pipe and damaged area in the cloth, and the oil won't be going anywhere, allowing for other clean-up measures to filter out the oil.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500278)

The water flows through, so you dip it into the water like it was a big bucket, or imagine a fish net designed to catch oil. You come away with nothing but oil inside your 'net'.

Re:Great for filtering, but - (1)

bhlowe (1803290) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500338)

Here is a video of two rednecks and their method to soak up oil. They make a decent point. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7JkFW5nwMQ [youtube.com] (Its plain old straw hay.)

Re:Great for filtering, but - (1)

dsavage (645882) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500688)

Hay is actually different from Straw. (And most of us would rather be called "Good old boy's" rather than "rednecks." Though, to be honest, I can't get to that link from work, so they might just be rednecks...)

-D

To further explain the differences between hay and straw, here's a link.
http://www.delsjourney.com/travels_2001-02/story_list/us/hay_and_straw.htm [delsjourney.com]

Re:Great for filtering, but - (2, Informative)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500426)

like, perhaps hair? [slashdot.org]

Re:Great for filtering, but - (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32500458)

Osorb by http://www.absmaterials.com/ does pretty much exactly what you describe, except you don't squeeze it, you heat it to remove collected material. It's also fairly cheap/easy to produce.

Is this really practical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32499822)

Is this really any more practical than any other methods? There are plenty of ways of separating oil and water, but to do it on such a large scale as the gulf of Mexico is a different animal altogether. At least with the "hillbilly hay" idea it was an easily obtainable substance (farmers make a lot of hay each year), but what about this? How easily can this polymer be mass produced in quantities that would be necessary to clean up the gulf?

But we don't want a fix! (5, Funny)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 4 years ago | (#32499830)

If it's fixed, we won't be able to get rich quick turning tarballs into, basically, gold! [sandman.com]

Re:But we don't want a fix! (2, Funny)

dward90 (1813520) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500626)

Don't joke about the tarball burner. It's totally legit. It's even PATENTED [google.com] .

Re:But we don't want a fix! (1)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500706)

There are not enough moderation options.

I was looking for the, "WTF -Seriously?!" mod option and came up blank. "Interesting" doesn't cut it with items like the one you pointed out.

-FL

Nothing new here (2, Informative)

Tisha_AH (600987) | more than 4 years ago | (#32499848)

I worked in the oil industry in the 80's and 90's (for Amoco coincidentally) and we had adsorbent spill control diapers and booms that we could run through a ringer to extract the oil. Every facility had a stockpile of these things.

I took an oil spill control class in Pueblo Co one year and we trained on boom deployment, oil recovery and cleanup. This was one of the tools we had available to us.

Now maybe the hype is that these new products are made of treated cotton (sounds nice and eco-friendly). Once anything picks up oil it is not so eco-friendly and just becomes another piece of hazardous waste.

Re:Nothing new here (5, Informative)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500040)

You have it backwards. Booms and diapers absorb the oil, this cloth does not absorb oil. It does the opposite, allowing water to pass through while the oil pools on top or in front.

In other words, booms and diapers act like sponges, while this cloth acts like a filter.

Re:Nothing new here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32500590)

yes but eventually the repellent wears off and becomes regular cloth with toxic oil.

Re:Nothing new here (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500050)

Okay, you had oil-absorbent "diapers".

Doesn't the fact that this is the exact opposite -- an oil-repellent filter -- make it news?

Re:Nothing new here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32500052)

something to think about - Boom's can't be used to skim the oil off the water - Oil soaked booms would not allow water to pass through them without also allowing oil to flow through

Re:Nothing new here (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500554)

Hmm. Oily pads of hazardous waste, or an oily ocean full of hazardous waste...let me think...

A net? (2, Insightful)

brianleb321 (1331523) | more than 4 years ago | (#32499982)

Is there a reason this wouldn't act like a giant net and trap life forms in what they intend to be pure crude oil?

Won't somebody think of the childr... I mean, won't somebody think of the dolphins?

Re:A net? (4, Funny)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500112)

Those life forms will be considered crude oil eventually. This just speeds up the classification process.

Re:A net? (1)

boneclinkz (1284458) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500330)

Those life forms will be considered crude oil eventually. This just speeds up the classification process.

Noice.

Re:A net? (1)

KahabutDieDrake (1515139) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500498)

Dolphins and any other reasonably intelligent species have already abandoned the gulf coast area. You won't be dragging up any porpoises unless they are already dead.

Or they could use hair. (2, Informative)

pearlm (13169) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500038)

Re:Or they could use hair. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32500084)

Hair is probably a little more expensive than cotton and polymers.

Hmmm,maybe a wide conveyor belt thing. (2, Interesting)

GarryFre (886347) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500070)

I didn't mention this before because I figured there was a problem with this but it occurred to me if they had a set of wide rollers they could attach rugs or such to a wide belt of some sort that could be attached to the front of a ship and the belt would rotate out into the water, collecting oil and pass through a couple rollers that would squeeze most of the oil out, and that part would pass back into the water to lap up more oil. The oil collected could then be processed and used. I figure I might as well mention it now, though I have doubts it would really work, but who knows. I don't.

Bigger? (4, Interesting)

warchildx (1695278) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500082)

I wouldn't want to pour the entire gulf of mexico worth of water through that small glass jar. reminds me of those pur water filters, where you pour some water in, and have to wait for it to *seep* through the filter material before you can put more in.

Maybe something more along the lines of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-W8_GpMz9nI [youtube.com]

Separating oil and water isn't hard. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32500094)

Can we all agree that separating oil and water isn't all that difficult? I mean just the plastic tub he poured it in held a lot of the oil while letting the water pour out. Right now in my fridge I'm separating oil and water in my Good Seasons Italian Dressing Cruet (tm). The issue is doing it to the entire gulf of Mexico.

When I see someone clean up a swimming pool in 1 second with a flick of their wrist, then I'll be impressed, but this... not so much.

Biggest Investor: BP (0, Troll)

CapnStank (1283176) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500110)

Obviously (if tests prove successful) BP will be buying this stuff by the boat-load. By successfully separating the oil to a (most likely) usable state they can recoup all that oil they lost into that darned ocean.

That damned water is contaminating our profits!

So, if the floating oil is considered salvage... (3, Interesting)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500150)

Then theoretically, any enterprising shrimp boat captain with this filter and a floating storage tank could sop up the stuff and sell it at spot price to a competitor of BP (Insert evil grin here).

Re:So, if the floating oil is considered salvage.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32500304)

Then theoretically, any enterprising shrimp boat captain with this filter and a floating storage tank could sop up the stuff and sell it at spot price to a competitor of BP (Insert evil grin here).

...and Bubba-Gump Oil is what they got!

Re:So, if the floating oil is considered salvage.. (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500628)

Frankly, if anybody started doing it, nobody is going to give them a hard time about it.

What, is BP going to say "hey wait, that's our oil - dump that back in the ocean where you found it!?"

Unless the price is REALLY low I doubt it would pay off. This is crude oil, and it literally is pumped out of big holes in the ground normally. It will be hard for anybody skimming it off the ocean to be competitive. Indeed, they might burn more oil cruising around skimming it up. For this reason, I suspect that BP is more likely to thank anybody who tries to make a buck in this way. The $1M in lost sales is worth 1000x that in PR right now - they're probably spending that much every day trying to contain the spill.

Re:So, if the floating oil is considered salvage.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32500698)

By law, you need to go to court with your salvage claim, otherwise it's merely theft. And by law, flotsam has to be returned to the owner, with court deciding whether to, and at what rate, to award salvage.

Great solution for the wrong problem. (1)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500300)

The problem is not in separating oil from water-- gravity already does that quite well, without the intervention of some special cloth.

The problem is the dilution-- the stuff is spread over thousands of square miles.

in a related story... (1, Interesting)

gearloos (816828) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500322)

Di Gao's brother in law Di Kotexa claims to have had his lab broken into and secret papers from his greatest achievement stolen.

Use Solar Energy? (1)

parallel_prankster (1455313) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500448)

As good as this technique is, it can mostly be used at the edges, that is at beaches etc to get oil out of pools or ponds, not get oil out of the sea water. I wonder how hard would it be to use Solar energy to convert water into steam and separate it from oil. I know there is a big difference between the boiling points of oil and water.

Too complicated - Better solution offered (0)

bizitch (546406) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500468)

Check out these guys

http://www.wimp.com/solutionoil/ [wimp.com]

You can mop it up with hay - all natural - tons of supply - after you collect the oil infused hay, you can just burn it for fuel

ShamWow! (2, Funny)

jdfox (74524) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500564)

That is all.

Too fine to work (2, Insightful)

Bicx (1042846) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500662)

It seems like this would be fine on a small scale, but pulling a large sheet of this stuff through moving ocean water would probably turn out to be extremely difficult. First, the tensile strength of the fabric would probably not be strong enough to withstand currents or other movement without a lot of bracing. Secondly, exposing it to a large quantity of oil would probably overwhelm the staining ability, causing the fabric to be "clogged," not only hampering the filtering properties but also increasing drag quite a bit.

Still need to plug the hole (+solution vid) (1)

thisisauniqueid (825395) | more than 4 years ago | (#32500704)

We still need to plug the hole... and BP seem completely incapable of doing so themselves. This video on YouTube shows a pretty promising solution: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDAkIU6zYkY [youtube.com]

Cleaner water? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32500750)

Was is just me, or does it appear that the water the came out was cleaner than the water be used (before mixing it with the oil)?

Would this be a valid way of cleaning up other (non-oil) polluted water supplies?

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