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S'pore scientists develop smart material to tackle oil spills

by June 17, 2016 General

SINGAPORE, June 17 (Xinhua) — Scientists from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) have developed a smart oil- scavenging material or “supergelators” that can tackle oil spills, announced IBN in a press release on Friday.

In a bid to improve the technology utilized by cleanup crew to manage and contain such large spills, researchers from IBN have invented supergelators which can clean up oil spills efficiently and rapidly and prevent secondary pollution.

These supergelators are derived from highly soluble small organic molecules, which instantly self-assemble into nanofibers to form a 3D net that traps the oil molecules so that they can be removed easily from the surface of the water.

“Marine oil spills have a disastrous impact on the environment and marine life, and result in an enormous economic burden on society. Our rapid-acting supergelators offer an effective cleanup solution that can help to contain the severe environmental damage and impact of such incidents in the future,” said IBN Executive Director Professor Jackie Y. Ying.

IBN’s supergelators have been tested on various types of weathered and unweathered crude oil in seawater, and only take minutes to solidify for easy removal. Besides, it was also found to be not toxic to human cells as well as zebrafish embryos and larvae.

The institute is looking for industrial partners to further develop its technology for commercial use.