Marine oil spills can be extremely difficult to deal with. In the sea of Cardiff, Wales engineers from a European research project are testing a new prototype that cleans oil spills quickly, efficiently and more cheaply than existing methods.
“What we’ve developed is a net which can float on the surface of the water, without using any containment booms,” explained James Ilsley, an environmental engineer;and managing director of OPEC Ltd, which is developing they system. .
The simplicity of the technology is an important aspect, according to Federico Meneghello, FORCE7 project coordinator: “A big advantage is that this system can operate with a single boat, and can work in stormy seas, because it doesn’t need to coordinate with other ships.”
The ‘mop’ soaks up engine oil from the surface without collecting an excess of water. Its synthetic fabric is made of hydrophobic fibres and has a multi-layer structure, which is good for different types of oil products.
State-of-the-art textiles are a key element. “You never know what kind of oil spills will happen – you never know if it’ll be heavy oil or light oil, so you have something like a compromise between two of these things,” said Monika Rymarczyk, a researcher in functional thermoplastic textiles, working on the project.
There are existing mops and absorbent mats but they are less efficient at soaking up oil and tend to sink, according to Meneghello. The next step for the engineers is to turn the research prototype into a commercial product that will have a much larger surface.
It’s possible the product could be on the market within a year.
(Source: Euro News)