Texas Tech researchers discover it picks up 50 times its weight in oil.
Researchers at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, recently discovered that low-grade cotton made into an absorbent nonwoven mat can collect up to 50 times its own weight in oil.
During the four-year project, scientists studied the effect of fiber structure and basic characteristics of cotton on oil sorption capacity of unprocessed raw cotton. “We believe nonwoven cotton webs as an oil sorbent have tremendous potential for application in real-time oil spill scenarios, along with environmental sustainability and commercial acceptability,” says Seshadri Ramkumar, professor in the department of environmental toxicology at Texas Tech who led the research.
Nonwoven cotton batts consisting of immature and finer cotton fibers showed 7 percent higher oil sorption capacity than cotton batts developed using mature and coarser fibers. Ramkumar said these cotton batts could be used to clean up oil spills on land as well as any oil-water system.
Ramkumar and his researchers are working with Texas Tech’s Office of Technology Commercialization to take this new technology into commercial space within 12 months. Results of the study were published in the American Chemical Society journal Industry & Engineering Chemistry Research.