Oil spill clean-up solution created from paper-waste aerogel

3 February 2016
By Tereza Pultarova
Mobile version
Share |
A new method to turn paper waste into a highly absorbent aerogel has been developed by Singaporean researchers

A new method to turn paper waste into a highly absorbent aerogel has been developed by Singaporean researchers

The world’s first biodegradable cellulose-based aerogel made from paper-waste that features an exceptional ability to absorb oil has been developed by Singaporean researchers.

The material can absorb up to four times as much oil as the best existing commercial sorbents. This, combined with its non-toxic and biodegradable nature, makes the material an ideal candidate for oil spill cleaning. Capable of absorbing up to 90 times its dried weight, the novel aerogel can be squeezed and up to 99 per cent of the absorbed oil recovered.

“Sorption has been considered one of the most effective ways to clean oil spills,” said Assistant Professor Duong Hai Minh from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the National University of Singapore, who led the research.

“Polypropylene (PP)-based absorbents are widely used for oil absorption, but they are non-biodegradable and their absorption capabilities are both low and slow. Our novel cellulose aerogels therefore serve as an attractive alternative to current methods of oil spill cleaning, which has a potential market size of $143.5bn.”

The aerogel, coated with Trimethoxy-methylsilane, is water repellent and therefore absorbs only oil.

In addition to its environmentally friendly nature, the aerogel has been manufactured using an energy-saving method.

“Our fabrication process uses 70 per cent less energy, produces fewer polluting emissions into the air and water, as well as using less dioxins in the chlorine bleaching process,” Duong said. “It is also faster – the entire process only takes three days.”

The team believes that in addition to its oil-absorbing properties, the paper-based aerogel can find applications in many other sectors - for example, as an insulation material in the built environment or as a biodegradable packaging material, e.g. a replacement for plastic-based bubble wrap.

Further modifications can turn the aerogel into a smart coating material that can be used for drug deliveries or to stop bleeding. This is achieved by first infusing the aerogel with a solution of metallic nanoparticles. The cellulose aerogels are then hammered flat to remove most of the air, resulting in a magnetic thin film that has a weight capacity of over 28 tonnes per square centimetre.

A small piece of this flat aerogel can be inserted into a wound, where it expands like a sponge, stopping the bleeding in less than 20 seconds.

The team has filed a patent for their invention in the USA, China, India and Southeast Asia.

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1605

"We visit Barcelona, one of the smartest cities in the world, to find out what makes it so special. What does it look like and what is the future?"

E&T jobs

  • Senior Development Engineer, Electronics

    Premium job

    Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation
    • Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire
    • Competitive

    We are an innovative, robust and fast growing business, whose main focus is to deliver continues improvement to existing products and offer new sol..

    • Recruiter: Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation

    Apply for this job

  • Smart Grid Research Engineer

    Premium job

    University of Strathclyde
    • Cumbernauld, Glasgow
    • Grade: 6/7* £26,537 - £37,768*

    Work as part of a growing dynamic team on a wide range of technical projects with particular emphasis on experimental validation and testing

    • Recruiter: University of Strathclyde

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Asset Specialist

    Affinity Water
    • Hatfield, Hertfordshire

    Responsible for updating and writing electrical engineering standards, approved codes of practice and safe systems of work

    • Recruiter: Affinity Water

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Electronics Engineer

    York Instruments
    • York, North Yorkshire

    Senior electronics engineer to work as part of a team developing an MEG imaging system; working with the engineering team and external contractors.

    • Recruiter: York Instruments

    Apply for this job

  • Manufacturing Engineer - Circuit Card Assembly

    • Lostock Junction
    • Competitive Salary & Benefits

    What’s the opportunity?   Manufacturing UK is an integral part of the Operations Directorate whose principal mission is to ensure that MBDA’s deliverable commitments are met...

    • Recruiter: MBDA

    Apply for this job

  • High Voltage Engineer

    Premium job

    Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment
    • Great Dunmow, Essex

    This High Voltage Engineer will provide design leadership for high voltage cable assemblies up to one megavolt.

    • Recruiter: Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment

    Apply for this job

  • Team Leader - Flank Arrays

    BAE Systems
    • Barrow-In-Furness, Cumbria, England
    • Negotiable

    Team Leader - Flank Arrays Would you like to work in a unique role within the construction of the Astute Class submarines? We currently have a vacancy for a Team Leader - Flank Arrays at our site in Barrow-in-Furness. As a Team Leader - Flank Arrays, you

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Electronics and Software Engineer

    Copley Scientific Ltd
    • Nottingham
    • circa £35,000 per annum + bonus

    Develop new test equipment for the pharmaceutical industry. Good opportunities to grow and develop. Successful family-owned and managed business.

    • Recruiter: Copley Scientific Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Bridge Test Facility Manager

    BAE Systems
    • Shropshire, Telford, England
    • Negotiable

    Bridge Test Facility ManagerWe currently have a vacancy for a Bridge Test Facility Manager at our site in Telford with our Land UK business.As the Bridge Test Facility Manager, you will be part of our Test & Trials team, working closely with the Mili

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Intelligent Transport Systems Engineer - Highways Technology

    Premium job

    Mott MacDonald
    • Birmingham, West Midlands

    Our transport technology team in Birmingham is currently growing a highly skilled and customer-focused team to...

    • Recruiter: Mott MacDonald

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶


Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T