Polyurethane foam adsorbent for efficient crude oil cleanup

A research group at the Ningbo Institute of Materials Technology and Engineering (NIMTE), has synthesized a high-efficiency carbon nanotube (CNT) modified lignin-based polyurethane adsorbent for crude oil spill removal, in cooperation with Prof. Chen Tao’s group at NIMTE and Prof. Yan Ning’s group at the University of Toronto. The research study was released in the Chemical Engineering Journal.

In recent years, the leakage of oil or natural chemicals has actually resulted in economic losses, petrochemical resource waste and extreme environmental pollution, positioning great hazards to the marine ecosystem and human health. Nevertheless, existing approaches for crude oil clean-up are not able to integrate excellent remediation performance with environmental management.

Researchers at NIMTE utilized the photothermal effect triggered by sunlight as the energy source to warm the heavy oil components, therefore significantly lowering their fundamental high viscosities to achieve a quick and efficient petroleum cleanup.

Through an easy polyurethane lathering process, they prepared lignin-based polyurethane foams. As a photothermal sorbent, the ready polyurethane foam was doped with carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and showed excellent sunshine absorption of 97% for heavy oil with their surface area temperature even going beyond 90 ℃ after 500 s of direct exposure under one sunlight. The customized foams adsorbed more than six times of its weight of crude oil within six minutes under one sun lighting.

In addition, the lignin-based foam adsorbents were degradable in alkaline environments with the degradation performance reaching 88.03% and the degradation rate of 6.25 mg/h in 2 mol/L NaOH aqueous option at 80 ℃ for 10 h. Meanwhile, CNTs can be recuperated from the same condition.

This work has not just provided an effective and eco-friendly approach for heavy crude oil spill removal and recovery, however also shed light on the high-value usage of dark-colored bio-based polymers.