May 22 : Mexico City Scientists at Mexico’s National Autonomous University have devised a new technology for cleaning up oil, radioactive substances, fertilisers, pharmaceuticals, and other contaminants that have been thrown in the water.
Nanotubes constructed of halloysite, a naturally occurring clay mineral, and magnetite, a highly magnetic mineral, are used in the novel process.
“We can use a magnetic field to pull out the stain as if we were throwing out a fishing net, and in this way, we can get rid of the oil,” project head Marina Vargas Rodriguez told Xinhua.
“If the spill occurs near the beach, we will have the option of pulling the contamination into the open sea so that it does not harm our beaches and, at the same time, we will have the option of pulling the pollutant into the open sea the same time, the oil can be recovered and reused.”
The approach has been tested on a variety of different types of oil.
“The materials have the ability to absorb oil and remain on the surface or wherever they are,” Vargas explained.
The method can clean up even the most viscous hydrocarbons, and once recovered, oil can be reused rather than being burned “in situ” and releasing dangerous compounds into the atmosphere.
“The fish are also damaged because all that oil is incorporated into the food chain, the carcinogens stay there, and when we catch fish, we feed on those dangerous compounds that are still there,” Vargas explained.
The newly created method has no adverse effects on animals and can be used to clean up big oil spills as well as decontaminate rivers and lakes and lagoons.
And the cost is substantially lower than for other ways since halloysite nanotubes occur naturally, whereas carbon nanotubes must be produced, which makes them more expensive.
“The technology is incredibly inexpensive, and I believe it would be worthwhile to implement it in any country that has this problem. This type of advancement has no nationality; it is a technology that can be used anywhere in the world, and we are willing to work with any government or region that need it “Vargas stated.
Oil spills are among the most devastating environmental disasters, endangering biodiversity worldwide.