Catching oil in a net with nanotechnology

Metal mesh with oleophobic coating keeps oil on top while water passes through. (Image source)

Metal mesh with oleophobic coating keeps oil on top while water passes through. (Image source)

Catching liquid in a net may seem like a crazy idea, but by adding a fine dusting of silica nanoparticles to a metal mesh, researchers have been able to create a new type of net.

Hydrophobic surfaces (surfaces which repel liquid) are not new and several sprays can now be bought in your local hardware store, but researchers at Ohio State University added a extra ingredient, by topping the silica with a layer of fluorosurfactant to make the mesh oleophobic (surfaces which repel oil).

Superoleophobic surfaces work by having a fluorinated component which provides low surface tension and a roughness component which prevents the solid and liquid from wetting and the super part just means that the liquid balls up with a wetting angle of more than 155˚.

Metal coated with silica and fluorosurfactant can separate water from oil.

Metal coated with silica and fluorosurfactant can separate water from oil.

To listen to the radio interview on oleophobic nanotechnolgy coatings, click here.

To listen to the radio interview on oleophobic nanotechnolgy coatings, click here.

The research published in the paper “Mechanically durable, superoleophobic coatings prepared by layer-by-layer technique for anti-smudge and oil-water separation” shows how this coating is not only great at separating water from oil, but is also mechanically strong enough to resist scratches and last long periods of time.

These coatings could potentially be used in ocean oil spills when large amounts of oil need to be removed from seawater.

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