Waste paper is a major concern for the environment, and researchers around the world are constantly looking for ways to put it to better use. Now, a team from the National University of Singapore has found a way to use paper waste to deal with another major environmental concern--waste from oil spills.
image source: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/from-paper-waste-to-powerful-absorbent
The new substance developed by the team is a combination of water, cellulose made from paper waste and a chemical that is exposed to sound waves to fractionate its cells. Then, the mixture is frozen, dry frozen and cured under heat. By the end, the cellulose is transformed into a very light porous material known as an aerogel. Then, it is coated with a chemical that allows the material to absorb oily substances while repelling water. The entire process only takes three days to complete, and it's possible to produce large amounts of it at one time.
The absorbent material developed by the National University of Singapore team can hold up to 90 percent of its weight. As a result, the material could be incredibly useful for cleaning up oil spills. Compared to the absorbent materials used at spill sites today, the cellulose aerogel has a much lower eco impact because it's biodegradable and completely nontoxic.
The researchers at National University of Singapore plan to begin marketing their aerogel worldwide in May. It can also be used for insulation and as a packing material due to its absorbency and its light weight.
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