A team of researchers at IIT-Guwahati has developed a fabric that can separate oil from water, which can help deal with marine pollution caused by oil spills in seas and oceans.The team led by Professor Vaibhav Goud has developed silica nanoparticles-coated cotton fabric by using rice husk to filter oil from water.
What is an oil Spill
An oil spill is a form of marine pollution that occurs when petroleum oil spills into an open body of water like seas or oceans .
- It happens mainly due to the accident of super tanker ships carrying crude petroleum oil in the seas or due to accidents at the oil drilling sites along the ocean coast .
- The oil floats on the water surface due to the density difference between the two.
- Oil spills due to industrial discharge or mishaps cause irreversible damage to aquatic ecosystems.
- As it contains many toxic compounds, an oil spill can harm the biotic and abiotic components of the environment where it takes place.
- Oil spill forms a thick layer on the surface of water . It prevents sufficient amounts of sunlight from penetrating the surface of the water affecting the marine life which depend on the sunlight.
- It also reduces the level of dissolved oxygen in the water leading to death of aquatic life forms due to suffocation .
Shortcomings of the current technique employed for cleaning oil spills
Currently many techniques are employed to clean the polluted water due to oil spills. The most used techniques ,skimming or in-situ burning are not very effective and also very costly. Skimmers are mechanical devices that separate oil from the surface of the water. The area where the oil has spilt is burned in a controlled manner. However, there is a danger of increased pollution due to burning, affecting human health and killing aquatic life.
How does the technique developed by IIT-Guwahati works
According to Professor Goud, the rick husk is an excellent source of silica nanoparticles.
- Through the techniques they have developed, the rice husk is first slowly heated and converted into charcoal, also known as biochar. Subsequently, this biochar is subjected to further heating and is transformed into silica nanoparticles.
- These silica nanoparticles are then coated over cotton, creating a natural three-dimensional sorbent for separating the oil-water mixture.
- The coated cotton fabrics absorb only the oil and thus help in cleaning the spilled water.
- According to Professor Goud, the nanoparticles-coated cotton fabric developed by his team has 98 per cent efficiency and retains its functionality even after repeated use and exposure to harsh environments.
Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati
The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati, Assam was set up in 1994 as the sixth IIT of India.
It is the only IIT for the entire North Eastern region of India.
There are at present 23 IITs in India.
The first IIT to be set up in India was IIT Kharagpur (West Bengal) which started its academic session in 1951.
The IITs were set up by the government of India as Higher Technical Institutions on the recommendation of the N.R.Sarkar committee.