Atomic Layer Deposition of Sub-Nanometer Inorganic Layers on Natural Cotton to Enhance Oil Sorption Performance in Marine Environments
Short, Andrew E
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Over 1 million tons of oil is inadvertently spilled each year. The economic and environmental costs of these spills are enormous and necessitate further development of environmentally friendly sorbent materials. Here, we demonstrate a vapor phase modification approach to create a new class of oil sorbents composed of cellulosic materials (cotton) coated with a sub-nanometer layer of inorganic oxide. This new cellulosic sorbent remains buoyant in water indefinitely and achieves a selective oil sorption capacity (23 g g-1 or 1.05 g cm-3) that is at least 35x better than untreated cellulose in aqueous environments. This new sorbent particularly excels under “realistic” conditions like continuous agitation (e.g. simulated waves) and pre-soaking in water (e.g., rain or forced immersion). When sorption performance is compared on a per-volume basis—which better captures use conditions than a per-mass basis—this modified natural product becomes comparable to the best sorbents reported in the literature, most of which require further expensive processing.