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Eco-friendly oil spill solution developed

An eco-friendly biodegradable green 'herding' agent that can be used to clean up light crude oil spills on water has been developed by researchers. Derived from the plant-based small molecule phytol abundant in the marine environment, the new substance would potentially replace chemical herders currently in use. According to researchers, the best known chemical herders are chemically stable, non-biodegradable, and hence remain in the marine ecosystem for years. Researcher’s goal was to develop an eco-friendly herding molecule as an alternative to the current silicone-based polymers.

Liquid oil on water (stock image)

Herding agents are surface-active molecules (surfactants) that when added to a liquid, such as seawater, reduce the surface tension. In the case of oil spills, when they are added along the periphery of an oil spill slick, they contract and thicken the slick or push slicks together so that they can be collected or burned. Understanding the interfacial behavior is crucial to design the next generation eco-friendly herding agents.

Read more: Science Advances , Vol. 1, No. 5, 26 Jun 2015, e1400265; DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400265