In a bid to ease recovery of oil from marine spills scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER), Thiruvananthapuram have developed a compound named gelator that has the capability to congeal oil from an oil and water mixture.
To develop the gelator the scientists used glucose as a starting material and by conducting various chemical reactions finally developed gelators that selectively congeal oil, including crude oil, from an oil-water mixture.
More about the compound, Gelator –
A team led by Dr. Kana M Sureshan from the School of Chemistry developed the compound that is in powder form and can be easily applied over oil-water mixture and also they do not cause any environmental damage
Unlike current methods gelators can be used many times, however, if used for extracting crude oil from a spill it can’t be reused
The gelator molecule is partly hydrophobic and partly hydrophilic. The hydrophilic part helps in self-assembling to form gelator fibres, the hydrophobic part is responsible for its diffusion into the oil layer
Since the outer part of the fibre is hydrophobic, oil tends to gets into the spongy network made of fibres
Once the oil is sucked in the fibre network, it loses its fluidity and becomes a gel.
As the self-assembly is strong, the gel is able to maintain its structure and rigidity even under pressure.
The results based on laboratory studies were published recently in the journal Angewandte Chemie.