Integrated Ocean Cleanup System for Sustainable and Healthy Aquatic Ecosystems

(1) The New Indian School, Isa Town, Kingdom of Bahrain

In an attempt to find a natural alternative to the commercially used oil-spill adsorbents, we investigated natural adsorbents such as sugarcane, cotton, charcoal, and clay. It has been observed that, up to a certain limit, these materials can be used to clean up oil spills. In addition, particular combinations of these materials could perhaps increase the efficiency of the cleanup. Subsequently, we carefully tested the adsorbing efficiency of each natural adsorbent with oils of different viscosities. By prototyping with a small-scale model, we found that some materials adsorbed oil more than the others, with bentonite and activated charcoal having the highest capacity of up to 100% oil-water mixture adsorption in the first two passes and nearly 90% adsorption in the third pass. Creating different layers of different materials helped to better filtrate the oil-water mixture. Upon testing with seawater, the prototype that we developed was able to adsorb three passes of a mixture of equivalent volume with nearly 100% efficiency. This means that the natural adsorbents tested have comparable efficiency to commercially used nonwoven polypropylene, while being non-toxic to aquatic life and easier to dispose of. Here we describe in detail our studies and prototyping of an effective oil cleanup system.

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environmental sciences chemistry
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