Drilling and fracking for oil under the seabed produces 100 billion barrels of oil-contaminated wastewater every year by releasing tiny oil droplets into the surrounding water.
While most efforts are concentrated on cleaning up large oil spills, researchers are looking for ways to eliminate the contamination brought on by these small droplets.
Now, researchers from the University of Toronto and Imperial College London have developed a sponge that can remove 90 percent of oil microdroplets from water within 10 minutes.
According to the inventors, after capturing oil from wastewater, the sponge can be treated with a solvent, which separates the oil from the sponge. The oil can then be recycled and the sponge reused.
Currently, the researchers are working on expanding the sponge’s use towards treating contamination from gas, mining, and textile industries, and also making the technology affordable in developing countries – where it can be used to rid contaminated rivers of dangerous pollutants.
While the real contamination problem related to offshore drilling will only be solved if we put an end to our dependence on fossil fuels, such temporary solutions like the sponge are still extremely useful in the meantime.