Guwahati: IIT Guwahati researchers have developed two distinct and special membranes that can continuously separate oil and water, even under harsh conditions. The membranes that are super-water repellent in air, and super oil-repellent in water, have been shown to separate complex mixtures of oil and water at practically relevant settings.
The development, if implemented on a large scale, will provide succour in the process of clearing up oil spills across water bodies in the world which pose as a huge threat to aquatic animals.
The research was undertaken by Dr Uttam Manna, assistant professor, department of Chemistry, IIT Guwahati, along with his research team comprising of Avijit Das, Dibyangana Parbat and Arpita Shome.
Considering the significance of their work, it has also recently been published in ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering.
The membranes developed by the researchers are super-water repellent when kept in air and super oil-repellent when kept in water and are capable of separating even the complex mixtures of oil and water. At a time, when the issue of oil mixed in water has created several environmental threats, this new invention by the IIT-G researchers will be relieving and much helpful.
In order to check whether the membranes will be able to separate oil and water, the team developed a prototype of oil-water separation device by using these membranes and collected mixtures of oil and water in different containers. As expected by the team, they succeeded in separating the two ingredients. This new invention by the team is going to help in environmental applications like oil spill management.
There have been many studies on materials and techniques that can separate oil and water. In recent times, scientists have taken cues from nature for this purpose. The lotus leaf for example, is water repellent, so that it does not get soggy in its living space. Fish, on the other hand, has a body surface that repels oil in order to survive in polluted waters.