Synthetic nanofur whose molecular structure mimics that of the leaves of certain types of water ferns could be used for efficient and environment friendly clean-up of oil spills, a new study revealed.
Research undertaken by scientists at Karlsruher Institut Fur Technologie and Bonn University found that the oil binding capacity of water ferns stems from the hairy microstructure of its leaves. The study was recently published in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.
If further developed for commercial use, nanofur could prove a viable alternative to current cleanup methods, which usually cause secondary pollution. For instance, the use of chemicals to accelerate the decomposition of oil through combustion results in further pollution. Conventional organic mop up materials such as saw dust and some plant fibers are not effective because they are highly water absorbent.
The subject of the study, which are aquatic ferns growing in tropical locales, have also been observed to be present in some parts of Europe. Tests on lakes showed that they reach maximum absorption in less than 30 seconds, after which they can be swept off the water surface.