Super soaker

It looks like Weet-Bix, but this polymer sponge, could soak up crude-oil spills—and it’s made out of rubbish.

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Flinders University in Adelaide has developed a rubbery new material from sulphur, a byproduct of the petroleum industry, and waste cooking oil. The pieces of sponge can be sprinkled onto an oil spill, or placed into a permeable membrane (imagine a pillowcase) and thrown onto the surface of the water. Because sulphur and canola oil are hydrophobic, just like crude oil, the sponge absorbs the crude oil—but not the water. The sponge can then be squeezed out and used again. Researcher Max Worthington says one of the advantages is there is no extra waste formed: everything that goes into creating the rubber comes out as usable material.

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