“Smart Sponge” Soaks Up Pollutants: Nanocellulose-based aerogel takes on oil and chemical spills

Pollutants beware! Nanotechnology researchers have developed a cellulose-based aerogel that’s thirsty for oil and chemicals while turning its nose up at water. Recent collaborative work between Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) and University of Wisconsin (UW) researchers offers the potential for a ‘green’ method of cleaning up oil spills and heavy metal contamination.

A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article (featuring FPL research engineer Zhiyong Cai, UW researcher Shaoqin “Sarah” Gong, and UW graduate student Qifeng Zheng)  explains this superabsorbent sponge. The cellulose-based aerogel is produced through a freeze-drying process and then treated to give it water repelling and oil absorbing properties.

To see the amazing aerogel in action, watch this video from the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.