Reusable Sorbent for Oil Spill Cleanup Fabricated Using Sequential Infiltration Synthesis

Tuesday, 3 October 2017: 12:00
Chesapeake L (Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center)
J. W. Elam, J. R. Avila, E. F. Barry, S. B. Darling, J. A. Libera, and A. U. Mane (Argonne National Laboratory)
Crude oil spills in the ocean can be devastating to the environment and extremely expensive to mitigate. Furthermore, while oil on the surface can be removed by skimming or burning, there are currently no technologies for the cleanup of subsurface oil droplets in the ocean. To address this need, we have developed a reusable sorbent material, OleoSponge. To synthesize this material, we begin with commercial polyurethane foam, and first treat the foam using sequential infiltration synthesis (SIS). SIS is similar to ALD in that it uses alternating, self-limiting exposures between gaseous precursors and a substrate. However, whereas the ALD substrate is a solid surface, in SIS the substrate is a polymer, and the precursors react on organic functional groups within the polymer to seed the nucleation of metal oxide clusters. We performed in situ infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry to elucidate the mechanism for metal oxide SIS within the polyurethane foam, and we have studied the effects of temperature, time, and partial pressure on the resulting SIS deposits. The next step is to graft an oleophilic monolayer onto the SIS-treated foam, either through gas-phase or solution phase treatment. The resulting material is simultaneously hydrophobic and oleophilic, and is able to rapidly extract oil from water. We have performed extensive bench-scale testing using 1” cubes of the OleoSponge and found that it absorbs >40x its weight in oil, and can be simply squeezed out and used again. Next, we performed a 10,000 scale up, and tested the material at the Ohmsett facility in Leonardo, New Jersey, using the largest outdoor saltwater tank facility in North America. The OleoSponge performed very well in extracting subsurface crude oil and diesel fuel from seawater under realistic conditions.