Bhabha Atomic centre scientist develops superabsorbent cotton to tackle oil spills

Mumbai, Jul 23: The city-based nuclear research institute BARC on Friday said it has developed a cotton-based superabsorbent which will help tackle oil spills on water.
The cotton is highly efficient super-hydrophobic or water disliking and also super-oleophilic or oil liking, and has been developed using radiation technology, an official statement said.
“There is no absorbent currently available that can remove floating oil from water surface and sediment oil (underwater) simultaneously,” A K Mohanty, the director of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, said.
He added that the ‘superabsorbent cotton’ was developed by Sudhendu Ray Chowdhury, a scientist working BARC’s Isotope and Radiation Application division. The innovation has already received a national award from the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers in 2019.
One gram of the material can pick up a minimum of 1.5 kg of oil from water media which can be collected by simple squeezing or compression from the superabsorbent cotton, it said.
The cotton is biodegradable and can be used up to 50-100 times, it added.
The statement said the material was developed by bio-inspired molecular-scale surface engineering through tuning of surface roughness or topography and surface energy with the help of radiation assisted covalent integration.
The cotton can be deployed to remove toxic organic liquids such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, chloroform, dichloromethane, tributyl phosphate (TBP), triphenyl phosphate (TPP) from industrial or municipal waste water, the statement said.
It can also be used for separation of various oily solvents in industry or laboratory setups and cleaning of solid surfaces in oil stations and spillage on road.
The conventional oil removal techniques generate secondary pollution and lose the oil either due to burning or consumption by microorganisms.
A process to produce the superabsorbent cotton in large quantities has also been developed, it said, adding that the design flexibility and weather resistance ensure that the newly-developed material can be packed and stored as per requirement.
An Indian patent was granted to the material in December 2020 and the technology has been transferred to a private company, the BARC statement said. (PTI)