ANN ARBOR, Mich.— A smart filter with a shape-shifting surface can separate oil and water using gravity alone, an advancement that could be useful in cleaning up environmental oil spills, among other applications, say its University of Michigan developers.
The system could provide a more efficient way to remove crude oil from waterways without using additional chemical detergents, or even after detergents have been added, said Anish Tuteja, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering. Tuteja is the corresponding author of a paper on the research published in the Aug. 28 issue of Nature Communications.
The researchers created a filter coating that repels oil but attracts water, bucking conventional materials’ properties. Most natural substances soak up oil, and the few that repel it also repel water because water has a higher surface tension. (more…)