|MadSci Network: Environment/Ecology|
Industry uses various materials to adsorb oil. Note that I use the term ADSORB not ABSORB, if you don't understand the difference; look it up. Clay (cat litter essentially), sand, ground corn cobs all work and are cheap but only to buy. Industry or for that matter everyone, must be concerned about disposal of the this material once it has adsorbed the oil. That is why the best adsorbents not only hold a larger quantity of oil BUT they can be disposed of cheaper and safer that the above products. These adsorbents made of polyethylene or polypropylene fibers come in the form of pads, loose material, or socks and pillows (tubes or pillows made out of porous material filled with the poly-fiber material). The large surface area that these thin fibers provide can adsorb oils in a general ration of 15:1. They also will support combustion so are able to be disposed of by incineration which is much better for the environment than piling this stuff in landfills. An added feature which is very important when oil has been spilled on water is that these fibers also float on water. They can adsorb the oil off the surface of the water and not sink. These adsorbants are manufactured by various companies; Wolfco (Mentor, Ohio) and PIG (somewhere in Pa.) being the best known. They might be willing to send you a sample if you contacted them. Pig uses corn cobs in some of the socks they manufacturer so you might specify.
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