Oil Spill Absorbing Polymer
Just imagine if the solution to an oil spill was this simple: Sprinkle a small amount of a non-toxic powder onto the layer of oil and in seconds the powder bonds to the oil, forming a sponge-like material that can be easily removed from the surface of the water. It's more than just a dream... a new form of superabsorbent polymer technology is changing the way environmental scientists approach oil spills and waste management problems. The results are amazing!
Sprinkle a small amount of this polymer onto the layer of oil and in seconds the polymer bonds to the oil, forming a sponge-like material that can be easily removed from the jar of water. This polymer is specially formulated to bond quickly and safely to many types of liquid hydrocarbons including crude oil, diesel fuel, and gasoline. The bonding is so complete that it literally encapsulates the liquid hydrocarbons in just seconds.
How Does It Work?
The chemical formulation of the polymer is carefully regarded as a trade secret and is under application for patent. However, the inventor agreed to share some limited information about the polymer for educational purposes. The hydrocarbon source (crude oil, diesel fuel, gasoline, etc.) consists of three basic components: paraffinics, naptinics, and the aromatics. The polymer is specifically formulated to bond to these components. The mechanism is three dimensional with cross-link bonding, and the polymer structures are referred to as dieblock, triblock, branched, radial, and liner, according to the manufacturer.
When the polymer comes in contact with a liquid hydrocarbon, the free hydrocarbons bond to the polymer forming a solid mass. The hydrophobic properties of the polymer cause it to float on water, but the density of the polymer is great enough to allow it to sink through the hydrocarbon and maximize the bonding potential. There is no need for mixing since the polymer bonds to the free hydrocarbons automatically.
Enviro-Bond 403 Polymer is also used in treating oily sludge, effectively filtering oil drilling fluids, and stabilizing any other spilled or leaked liquid hydrocarbons that pose a threat to the environment.
Oil is a major source of ground water contamination and ocean pollution. The vast majority of this oil enters the ocean from oil spills on ships that transport petroleum or from manufacturing operations on land. However, oil can also seep into the ocean naturally from cracks in the sea floor. Oil well and oil tanker accidents at sea account for a small portion of ocean oil pollution, yet the lasting effects of these accidental spills can be disastrous.
A personal note from Steve Spangler...
Enviro-Bond 403 Oil Polymer was the invention of a great person in Michigan by the name of Larry Thompson. I first met Larry while researching other kinds of superabsorbent polymers in 1992. I often share the inspirational story of how Larry invented this polymer during my teacher workshops and keynote speeches. Larry was truly passionate about his discoveries and did everything possible to encourage children to better understand the world of chemistry.
Larry Thompson passed away in March of 2004 from a rapid spreading cancer in his liver and pancreas. Up until the last few days of his life, Larry was sending emails and talking with people on the phone about the benefits of his oil absorbing polymers. I recently spoke at the National Honors Society national convention in Florida. After the presentation, a ninth grade girl came up to me and said, "I don't think that I'll ever be as good a scientist as that man who invented the oil polymer, but I can only hope that I make a discovery that helps the world as much as his did." I shared this with Larry in our last email correspondence. He will be greatly missed.
-- Steve Spangler
- Boy Scout Environmental Science merit badge application Review by Vi Probert
I am a Boy Scout merit badge counselor for a badge called Environmental Science. We do an experiment to explore ways to contain and clean up an oil spill in a bowl of water. This is awesome! I plan to add this to my activities.
The requirement says:
3-C-2) Conduct an experiment to identify the methods that could be used to mediate (reduce) the effects of an oil spill on waterfowl. Discuss your results with your counselor.
(Posted on July 23, 2010)
- How I wish that BP had read this article on the 21st of April Review by Beverly Elder
I think the article communicates the basic information quickly and clearly. The photographs are great too. I surely hope someone is connecting the dots -- but I am surprised that I only learned about this science today when i googled "polymer absorbs oil" after seeing a live demonstration of the power of the polymer on CNN this morning. It is incredible that there are not tons of this stuff ready and waiting in the BP (and all oil companies') storage facilities to use when there are oil disasters. Thanks for posting.
(Posted on May 13, 2010)
- Great science project Review by Karen
This is the second year we go to Steve Spangler website for my son's science projects. Last year the polymer cubes and marbles where a hit and we learned so much from polymers. This year we decided to learn even more about polymers and we got the clean up oil spill kit. My son, 9 years old loved this project and we truly learned so much from it.
(Posted on February 27, 2011)
- oil absorbent Review by Shakil Daud
Great experiment and the video happens to be greater.
BP should have been sent this as a link and all major companies that risk the oil spillage in to where ever should be made to keep a minimum stock of it.
(Posted on May 21, 2010)
- What an interesting project! Review by Albright student
As soon as i found this project in your website i had to do it i'm in the 8th grade and my teacher even said this project might even get first place because it would really relate to the oil spill during the summer that happened here in the gulf of mexico.
(Posted on September 19, 2011)
- science project? Review by Lauren
That was so cool. now i am going use that for my science project!!! Love it!!!
(Posted on April 4, 2012)