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Plant-Based Sponge Offers New Route to Ocean Oil Spill Cleanup

The fabrication of a solar-heated ink enhanced plant fiber sponge (PFS@GC) suitable for viscous ocean oil spill cleanup is the subject of recent research available as a pre-proof in the Journal of Hazardous Materials.

Plant-Based Sponge Offers New Route to Ocean Oil Spill Cleanup

Study: Solar-Assisted High-Efficient Cleanup of Viscous Crude Oil Spill using an Ink-Modified Plant Fiber Sponge. Image Credit: dimitris_k/

Due to its high viscosity and limited permeability at ambient temperature, rapid and effective cleanup of viscous oil spillage remains a worldwide concern. Spilled oil absorbents that are hydrophobic and have a three-dimensional porous surface have been deemed a possible contender for this process. However, they are still restricted in their ability to extract extremely thick oil.

Usage of Absorbents for Oil-leakage Clean-up

Numerous marine contaminants during offshore exploratory drilling and shipping have quickly developed owing to oil leakage incidents as a result of the fast acceleration of urbanization and increased oil usage. This phenomenon has put ocean life and human welfare in jeopardy, as well as wreaking havoc on environmental assets.

Oil leaks from water have been cleaned up using a variety of approaches, including in-situ direct combustion, biotransformation, physical absorption, biochemical dissemination, oil booms/skimmer containers, and the use of absorbents.

Absorbents are the most attractive options for the successful clean-up of oil spills, owing to their lack of explosive risk and secondary environmental contamination during the clearance of the oil spillage.

3-Dimensional Porous Materials (3D-PM) as Oil Absorbents

Three-dimensional porous materials (3D-PM) are an interesting substitute absorbent for oil absorption and extraction from water because of their ultrahigh permeability, lightness, and exceptional hydrophilicity.

Carbon-based 3D-PM, synthetic 3D-PM, and natural 3D-PM are only a few of the absorbents that have been extensively documented. These absorbents are ideal for recovering low-viscosity oil. Nonetheless, under comparable test settings, they demonstrate a poor absorption efficiency (AE) for viscous crude oil. As a result, creating a new absorbent for effective viscous crude oil recovery remains a difficult task.

Hydrophobic Absorbents for Crude Oil Recovery

Owing to its poor mobility and inadequate oil collection, crude oil has a higher viscosity than light oils. Crude oil's viscosity reduces as temperature rises, allowing it to readily diffuse into the porous system of 3D-PM absorbent materials.

In this way, integrating hydrophilic absorbents with photocatalytic properties for crude oil extraction is an interesting and effective method. These absorbents can convert active or passive energy sources, such as electric power, and solar power, to raise the temperature of crude oil, lowering its viscosity.

However, available electrical energy is often insufficient to satisfy the needs for rapid oil spill cleanup in offshore locations. The sun provides plentiful, low-cost, and ecologically benign solar energy. The solar energy gathered may be transformed into heat or electricity, which can be used in solar panels, water purification, and photocatalysis applications.

Eco-Friendly Plant Fiber Sponges (PFS) for Crude-oil Cleanup

In this study, the researchers used a straightforward, cost-effective, and ecologically friendly carbonization-free technique to manufacture deformable and hydrophobic plant fiber sponges (PFS) and show their use in crude oil clean-up and treatment.

Natural vegetation and regenerated plant fiber-based substances were employed to create the plant fibers (PFs). A water-based ink was made by mechanically ball-milling extended graphite (EG) nanoparticles, carbon black (CB) granules, and polyvinyl acetate to include the solar-heated characteristics in PFS. 

Then, using mechanical frothing and in-situ ink coating procedure, the prepared ink was employed as epoxy to make the self-heating PFS (designated as PFS@GC). More notably, PFS@GC was dip-coated in PDMS solvent before being employed as a light-absorbing sponge material.

Research Findings and Conclusion

In conclusion, the researchers fabricated a deformable and hydrophilic plant fiber sponge (PFS) that can be used to clean up the viscous crude-oil spillage. The PFS has outstanding separation performance for oil-water combinations and strong oil absorptive capacity for oils and organic solvents due to its high hydrophobic nature and permeability.

Furthermore, the PFS can continuously extract crude oil from the sea surface with the use of a vacuum pump and solar radiation, indicating that it has a lot of promise for effective cleanup of viscous oil spillage. This study might be seen as a pioneering effort to clean up and gather crude oil in offshore locations, as well as expand the uses of self-heating photocatalytic nanomaterials.


Liu, Z. et al. (2022). Solar-Assisted High-Efficient Cleanup of Viscous Crude Oil Spill using an Ink-Modified Plant Fiber Sponge. Journal of Hazardous Materials. Available at:

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Hussain Ahmed

Written by

Hussain Ahmed

Hussain graduated from Institute of Space Technology, Islamabad with Bachelors in Aerospace Engineering. During his studies, he worked on several research projects related to Aerospace Materials & Structures, Computational Fluid Dynamics, Nano-technology & Robotics. After graduating, he has been working as a freelance Aerospace Engineering consultant. He developed an interest in technical writing during sophomore year of his B.S degree and has wrote several research articles in different publications. During his free time, he enjoys writing poetry, watching movies and playing Football.


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