NSF Funds Development of Oil Spill Remediation Method
The NSF’s Sustainable Chemistry, Engineering, and Materials (SusChEM) Program addresses the interrelated challenges of sustainable supply chains, engineering, production, and environmentally benign use of chemicals and materials by design.
Prof. Mark Grinstaff and his group have been funded by the program to develop an environmentally friendly continuous oil recovery device based on a new, biodegradable, safe and highly tunable poly(glycerol carbonate) mesh. This device addresses an important need. Using synthetic sorbent materials (“sponges”) to remove oil from the surface of a body of water is a highly successful, cost-effective, and versatile remediation method. However, there are concerns about the oil selectivity, reusability, safety, and lack of biodegradability of these materials.
The interdisciplinary Grinstaff group (Prof. Grinstaff holds a joint appointment in Chemistry and Biomedical Engineering) will prepare and explore an environmentally friendly, biodegradable oil absorbing sponge for enhanced oil recovery after an oil spill. To do so, they will synthesize different polymer-based materials and characterize them in terms of their mechanical and oil-absorbing properties and their biodegradability. In addition to addressing the need for improved environmentally friendly methods to clean up an oil spill, these research activities will be a science platform for training students in interdisciplinary research. An illustration of the mesh is shown at left.