In the months after the largest oil spill in U.S. history, scientists faced the challenge of how best to clean up the millions of barrels of oil polluting seawater, marshes and beaches. Sudipta Seal and his co-principal investigator Larry Hench received a Rapid Response Grant (RAPID) from NSF's Division of Materials Research to develop a novel process for treating fly ash -- a byproduct of burning coal -- to absorb oil. Find out more in this discovery.
Credit: S. Seal, L. L. Hench, David Reid (G), Ian Goldstein, University of Central Florida
Responding to the months-long oil spill from a BP well in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, a team of polymer chemists in Mississippi set to inventing a non-toxic chemical dispersant that could break up oily deposits without harming marine or wetlands wildlife. Find out more in this video.
Credit: NBC Learn and NSF
The mission of the Division of Chemistry in NSF's Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences is to support innovative research in chemical sciences, integrated with education, through strategic investment in developing a globally engaged U.S. chemistry workforce reflecting the diversity of America.
Catalysts created by Carnegie Mellon University chemist Terrence J. Collins effectively and safely remove a potent and dangerous endocrine disruptor from wastewater.
April 18, 2016
Oil spill cleanups: Finding the right chemistry
Research team uses Deepwater Horizon samples to further refine impact of sunlight and dispersants, improve cleanup models
Sunlight plays a key role in the natural degradation of oil after a spill, oxygenating the oil so it dissolves in seawater and comes in contact with microbes that will break it down. But, under certain conditions, sunlight can have negative effects, too. With continued exposure, the energy in sunlight drives chemical reactions that transform liquid oil into a sludge that has a consistency similar to peanut butter: thick, pasty and sticky.
Supported by funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), analytical chemist Matthew Tarr and his team at the University of New Orleans are using samples from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to learn more about how crude oil breaks down in seawater when it's exposed to sunlight and dispersants. The researchers' goal is to help refine the computer models that responders use to make cleanup plans. The research also adds to everyone's overall understanding and helps mitigate environmental damage from future oil spills.
The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #1111525, Photochemistry of Petroleum from the Deepwater Horizon: Products, Mechanisms and Toxicity.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.