|A research study published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports revealed that scientists at the Ohio State University, US, developed a specialized type of mesh that allows water to pass through it, but traps oil and can clean up oil spills at a fraction of the current cost thanks to a breakthrough in nanotechnology. Created by a team led by Prof. Bharat Bhushan and Philip Brown, the mesh was inspired by the leaves of the lotus plant. They covered lotus leaves in tiny bumps tipped with even tinier hairs, which caused water to bead up and roll off when it lands on the surface – oil, however, isn’t affected in the same manner. This structure was altered for the mesh, so that water wouldn’t be affected, but oil would be repelled.The scientists started by spraying a dusting of silica nanoparticles onto a fine steel mesh, to create bumps across its surface. They then applied a layer of polymer that contained molecules of an oil-repellent surfactant. The entire combined coating was just a few hundred nanometers thick. In lab tests, when oil-laden water was poured onto a piece of the mesh, the water flowed through while the oil remained on top. The large nets made
from the mesh could be used to gather crude oil from sea water.
According to Brown, the nets could be constructed at a cost of less than a dollar per square foot – and of course, they could be reused once the captured oil was poured off into a container.