BARC develops cotton based super-absorbent to remove floating oil from water surface
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), a premier nuclear research institute of Department of Atomic Energy located in Mumbai, has developed cotton based super-absorbent using radiation technology to combat oil pollution.
BARC has been able to make a highly efficient super-hydrophobic (water disliking) and super-oleophilic (oil liking) cotton by radiation technology.
“There is no absorbent currently available that can remove floating oil from water surface and sediment oil (underwater) simultaneously,” says Dr. A.K. Mohanty, Director, BARC, Mumbai.
He informed that the “superabsorbent cotton” has been developed by Dr. Subhendu Ray Chowdhury, a scientist working in Isotope and Radiation Application Division, BARC and he has been conferred with National Award for Technology Innovation, 2019 by Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Government of India for this innovation.
The material was developed by bio-inspired molecular-scale surface engineering through tuning of surface roughness (topography) and surface energy with the help of radiation assisted covalent integration. Typically, one gram of the material can pick up minimum 1.5 kg oil from water media which can be recollected by simple squeezing or compression from the superabsorbent cotton. This biodegradable super-absorbent can be used multiple times (50-100 times).
Benefits of Cotton based Super-Absorbent
The cotton based super-absorbent can be used for removal of toxic organic liquids such as Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, Chloroform, Dichloro Methane, Tributyl Phosphate (TBP), Triphenyl Phosphate (TPP) etc. from industrial or municipal waste water.
In addition to this, the super-absorbent cotton can also be used for separation of various oily solvents in industry/ laboratory setups and cleaning of solid surfaces in oil stations, spillage on road etc.
The cotton retains its property and performance in acidic, alkaline, sea environment and even at high temperature. After multiple usages, the cotton can be disposed of without any hassles as it is biodegradable.
Conventional oil removal techniques generate secondary pollution and lose the oil either due to burning or consumed by microorganisms. However, the current technique is cost effective, recovers the oil and adds value to environment as well as economy.
The process to produce the superabsorbent cotton in large quantities has been developed and scaled up. Due to design flexibility and weather resistance this material can be packed and stored as per requirement. Thus, in the “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” of Government of India, it is an contribution of BARC, Dr. P.K. Pujari, Director, Radiochemistry & Isotope Group, BARC.
In December 2020, an Indian patent has been granted on this unique super-absorbent and the technology has been transferred to a private company.