Smart Sponge Soaks Up Oil Spills In Water Without Harming Marine Life

Smart Sponge Soaks Up Oil Spills In Water Without Harming Marine Life

Due to its nanocomposite coating of magnetic nanostructures that binds to the oil molecules, the smart sponge can be used umpteen times for oil absorption.

Smart Sponge


In a unique invention, the North-western University-led team has developed a first of a kind ‘highly porous smart sponge’ that can soak up oil more than 30 times its weight in the oil spill regions of the sea. Used efficiently to clean up oil spills without any threats to the marine ecosystem, the reusable sponge can be used umpteen times, according to the release on North-western University’s website. Due to its nanocomposite coating of magnetic nanostructures that binds to the oil molecules, capturing and storing it in a way that when squeezed out, the sponge is ready to absorb the oil spills several times as good as new.  

Professor Vinayak Dravid, the lead researcher, Illinois, US said, “Oil spills have devastating and immediate effects on the environment, human health, and economy.” Further he added, “Although many spills are small and may not make the evening news, they are still profoundly invasive to the ecosystem and surrounding community. Our sponge can remediate these spills in a more economic, efficient, and eco-friendly manner than any of the current state-of-the-art solutions.”dravid-vinayak.jpg

The research was published on May 27 in the journal Industrial Engineering and Chemical Research and Dravid is the Abraham Harris Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. However, Vikas Nandwana, a senior research associate in Dravid’s laboratory, is the author of the key research published. 


A new highly porous 'smart' sponge developed by @ProfDravid selectively soaks up oil in water, making it a potentially inexpensive and efficient tool to help clean up oil spills without harming marine life.

Smart Sponge Could Clean Up Oil Spills

A smart sponge that selectively soaks up oil, sparing water and wildlife, could clean up oil spills.

While oil spills terribly damage the marine life and further pose severe threats to the environment, current solutions such as using chemical dispersants to breakdown oil into very small droplets, skimming oil floating on top of the water, or absorbing it with expensive, unrecyclable sorbents, aren’t the most effective ways to combat the issue. Also, the spill clean-up is an expensive and complicated process, as per the study. Therefore, Northwestern solution “bypasses these challenges by selectively absorbing oil and leaving clean water and unaffected marine life behind.” 

Magnetic nanostructures make “OHM sponge”

According to the published research, the magnetic nanostructures make the smart sponge perform unique additional functionalities, that is, controlled movement in the presence of an external magnetic field and desorption of adsorbed components, such as oil, in a simulated and remote manner. Further, the researchers say that OHM (oleophilic hydrophobic magnetic) nanocomposite slurry can be used to coat any cheap, commercially available sponge which is quickly and easily converted into a smart sponge (or “OHM sponge”) with a selective affinity for oil. 

Written By Zaini Majeed  REPUBLIC WORLD