SCIENCE IN THE NEWS DAILY
Giant 'Kitchen Towel' Could Be Used to Mop Up Oil Spills
from the Times (London)
Giant "kitchen towels" could replace booms, bombs and detergents as the best remedy for a catastrophic oil spill, researchers said after inventing a super-absorbent membrane.
The wafer-thin sheet, made from nanowires, acts like blotting paper on oil and has the capacity to absorb 20 times its own weight. It is impervious to water, remaining dry even when left under water for a month, but soaks up oil and other contaminants, which can then be removed and disposed of safely.
Researchers believe that it will lead to the development of huge "towels" that could be dropped into the seas or dragged through the water to soak up oil spills like those caused by the Torrey Canyon, Exxon Valdez and Amoco Cadiz.
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Extreme events, such as super floods and hurricanes, are becoming more common, so civil engineers are trying to adapt civil infrastructure such as bridges to these unpredictable and sometimes devastating meteorological events. Engineer Ana Barros discusses how engineering can prepare us for extreme weather events, but also how changing climate and population conditions can affect the ability of infrastructure to hold up over time.
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