A new material developed by Australia’s Deakin University is being heralded as the most exciting advance in oil spill cleanup technology.
The nanotechnology team at the Deakin Institute for Frontier Materials has been working on boron nitride nanomaterials for two decades and says the new material, which absorbs oil like a sponge, is ready for trials by the oil and gas industry.
By 2013, the team had developed a powder with absorption capabilities but had to find a way to bind it into a sponge to soak oil up and separate it from water. Through a new production technique, it was broken into super-thin sheets used to make the sponge.
The new material, a boron nitride nanosheet, is made up of flakes just a few nanometers—one billionth of a meter—thick with tiny holes which can increase its surface area per gram to reach the size of five and a half tennis courts.