Fact: A stainless steel mesh coated with oil repelling nano-particles allows for water to pass through but oil to be caught up.
For the past couple of decades, nano-particles have been getting a lot talk. This is mainly due to their size and variability of use. This has allowed science and technology to further explore information processing, medical fighting agents, and various other uses. More recently, Ohio State University came up with a stainless steel mesh that contains a rough surface and nano-particles that help repels oil particles but not water.
What does this exactly mean? With all the current problems with our ecosystem and nation wide coverage of deep sea drilling, oil spills have become front news. The problem is that we don’t have many useful solutions to clean up after such horrendous disasters. What this material does is allow water to traverse the stainless steel mesh while restricting oils passage by using oils chemical properties against it. How is this done? Well, scientists have used nano-particles with hydrophobic tendencies. This arose by examining mother nature. The lotus plant contains a bumpy surface that does the opposite of what the scientists actually wanted (repel water and allow oil through). Scientists just switched the process using surfactants. This agent reduces the surface tension across the mesh and produces a surface-active molecule that is partly more hydrophilic (water-soluble; allows water in or through) and lipophilic (soluble in lipids or oils).
So the team at Ohio State created a rough surface coating the surface with silica-based nano-particles, then spraying surfactant molecules. Why use these agents and materials? These materials and chemicals were used because of their cheap cost and their non-toxic properties. Whilst creating these materials, the chemicals used may be non-toxic but they have to be carefully cared for by using the proper PPE, as well as equipment like drip trays, so they can do everything safely with health in mind. The Ohio team says that the material could cost as low as $1-per-square foot. Lastly, the team found that by altering the stainless steel mesh with various layer combinations of nano-particles, the team can actually attract oil, which could help other industries trying to locate oil.