Researchers at IIT Guwahati aimed to tackle the environmental crisis through innovation

A new class of superhydrophobic cotton composites with a metal-organic framework (MOF) that promises to clean up marine oil spills in the near future.

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati have developed a fancy highly porous and water-resistant superhydrophobic cotton composite component containing a metal-organic framework (MOF) that can selectively absorb oil from oil-water mixtures.

MOF composites have great potential for selective separation of oils from oil / water mixtures, and the separation efficiency is between 95 percent and 98 percent, regardless of the chemical composition and concentration of the oil.

Also, MOF composites are capable of absorbing large amounts of oil and can be reused at least 10 times so that sorbents can further recover the spilled oil.

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This includes the practical application of the study

  • Cleaning oil spills from environmental water (river, sea or seawater) during oil transport with high efficiency and large absorption capacity, thus reducing environmental water pollution
  • Both heavy and light oils can be effectively absorbed by the material
  • The material is easy to prepare, cost effective and recyclable

The research team was led by Associate Professor Shyam P. Biswas of the Department of Chemistry. IIT Guwahati. The results of this pathbreaking work were recently published in the well-known peer-review journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces under the American Chemical Society.

In the petroleum industry, offshore oil exploitation and oil spills during oil transportation often lead to accidents. This deadly water pollution poses a threat to human health, including other living species. Therefore, the treatment of industrial oily wastewater and the separation of oil spills from water has become a challenging task worldwide.

To overcome this problem, researchers at IIT Guwahati have synthesized a superhydrophobic MOF with cotton to selectively absorb oil from water. MOFs are a class of compounds that combine metal ions with organic ligands to form 3D structures, with the special feature that they are often highly porous substances that act like a sponge.

The team led by Faith initially developed a superhydrophobic MOF that could repel water and float on the surface of water. Then, they increased the same MOF on the medical cotton surface. It has been observed that intermediate cotton varies from hydrophilic to superhydrophobic material and can float on the surface of water. The MOF-coated cotton fiber composite showed water resistance with a water contact angle (WCA) of 163.

Flexible superhydrophobic MOF composite has shown oil absorption capacity of more than 2500 wt%. In this study, the team used motor oil, kerosene and gasoline to investigate the real-life potential of the material for oil spray cleaning. The research team also demonstrated the separation of oils from oil / water mixtures by simple gravity-guided filtration and the collection of underwater oils against gravity.

Rising environmental pollution poses a serious threat to our society for sustainable development. Among the various environmental problems, water pollution is a serious problem in India. Until now, petroleum hydrocarbon products have been the world’s major energy source.

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