sponge

We soak up news like sponges these days and it’s not news to say that it pours onto our screens 24/7. What we see is often not the most positive, particularly when it comes to the environmental stories. But we at PUNC Water Bottles like to see the bright side and there is a bright side! There are people striving and succeeding when it comes to finding ways to solve problems and make the world a little better and a little cleaner.

Take this new discovery; a “greasy sponge” that will soon soak up oil spills! Yes, we know it would be better if we didn’t rely on oil (and soon enough we won’t have a choice; goodbye petrochemical plastics) but this is the first real step toward saving countless marine animals, plants and indeed whole eco-systems.

At the moment when, say, BP or Exxon spill thousands of barrels of oil into the sea those who try to clean it up use wool or straw to separate the oil from the water. It sounds like a Friday afternoon office brainstorming idea and it only sort of works. They also use cheap, artificial sponges, which are currently the best choice, not least because they float; but they suck up water with the oil and so they can only hold so much. Now, researcher Zhaozhu Zhang  of the Chinese Academy of Science has come up with a treatment for sponges that makes them suck up just the oil, leaving the cleaned water below where it should be. In their test they poured a mix of oil and water onto their treated pound-shop sponges and the water sat on top in perfect beads while the oil soaked right into it and stayed there!

The process might be pretty pricey for now, so initially it will probably be used for smaller spills but when they perfect the process, costs should plummet. BP will likely pay record amounts, about $25bn in clean-up and compensation costs for their recent Gulf spill  and the ongoing claims could rise past €40bn, so that gives us hope that this technology will be in the mainstream a lot sooner than some think. An oil company facing the risk of those kinds of pay-outs would sooner develop the technology than simply cross their fingers…

We’d rather not see any oil being spilled but chances are it’ll happen again before we move on to more sustainable sources of energy. We do like to see our water clean and news of a great step in that direction makes a good news day.

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