Advanced oil sorbents using sequential infiltration synthesis

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Disasters on the scale of the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon serve as harrowing reminders of the devastating effects uncontrolled oil spills have on the environment. Skimming, burning, and dispersing oil are only partially effective and carry their own ecological impacts. An enticing alternative strategy involves oil sorbents capable of efficient extraction of oil from water bodies, which in turn necessitates the design and implementation of novel materials Here, we extend methods of sequential infiltration synthesis (SIS) traditionally only applied to nanometer scale thin films to create oil sorbents based on macroscopic, commercially available polymeric foams. Targeting superoleophilic and superhydrophobic chemistries, we demonstrate the propensity of SIS-based modifications in oil spill remediation and demonstrate its efficacy in crude oil sorption in model seawater. We find crude oil sorption on the order of 30 and 90 times the initial foam weight for polyurethane and polyimide, respectively, both with highly favorable reusability.

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