Researchers from Australia and the U.S. characterized a newly developed material as the most exciting potential remedy for oil spills in decades.
The Institute for Frontier Materials at Australia’s Deakin University first developed a boron nitride powder with promising absorption properties in 2013.
A new study, published in the journal Nature Communications with the help of scientists from Drexel University and the Missouri University of Science and Technology, said that the powder could be converted into an ultra-thin sheet that can act like a sponge during oil cleanup efforts.
The boron nitride nanosheet is comprised of atomically thin flakes with tiny holes that can dramatically increase its total surface area.
“The pores in the nanosheets provide the surface area to absorb oils and organic solvents up to 33 times its own weight,” said Deakin research fellow Weiwei Lei.
Scientists said that the material can be produced in solutions and the deployed as aerogels and membranes in the event of oil spills. The nanosheets can also withstand flame and be used in flexible or transparent electronics or insulation.
The material is now ready for trial by industry, the researchers said.
“We are so excited to have finally got to this stage after two years of trying to work out how to turn what we knew was a good material into something that could be practically used,” said Deakin Professor Ying Chen.
Filed Under: Materials • advanced