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Argonne National Laboratory, 28 July 2018

The Oleo Sponge, developed by Argonne National Laboratory, is a novel absorbent for removing oil spills from water. It can absorb up to 90 times its own weight in oil, is reusable, and can collect oil both above and below the water's surface. The product is created from low-cost materials by chemically treating a polymer foam such as polyurethane. Ordinary polyurethane foam is not effective for removing oil from water because the surface of polyurethane is neither oleophilic (oil-attracting) nor hydrophobic (water-repelling). When polyurethane foam is immersed in an oil/water mixture, it will absorb both substances more or less equally. In contrast, Oleo Sponge is simultaneously highly oleophilic and highly hydrophobic, so that it rapidly and selectively absorbs oil from an oil/water mixture. These properties are imparted by performing a 2-step surface chemical treatment. In the first step, the foam is impregnated with an ultra-thin, inorganic coating using sequential infiltration synthesis. This coating primes the surface for the second step in which the resulting surface is functionalized with an oleophilic monolayer using silanization, a self-limiting surface chemical reaction. Oleo Sponge was recognized by R&D Magazine in 2017 with an R&D 100 Award for technology innovation. https://www.anl.gov/article/argonne-seeks-partners-to-commercialize-oleo-sponge-technology Licensing: Contact 1-800-627-2596 or partners@anl.gov.

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