Coated cotton separates oil and water

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Since the Deepwater Horizon oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists seeking solutions to the oil-water separation so crucial to cleanup are bringing forward ideas. Di Gao, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, Pittsburgh, Pa., used his expertise in nanotechnology to develop a polymer coating that allows water to pass through a cotton filter while holding on to the oil. Gao envisioned large, trough-shaped filters that could be dragged by boats through oily waters, after which the oil could be recovered and the sling re-used. The idea has been submitted to the Deepwater Horizon Response website, an industry and government clearinghouse for oil spill solutions. For more information, see


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