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IIT-Guwahati aims to address environmental crisis via Water Repellent Superhydrophobic Cotton

GUWAHATI: Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-Guwahati) researchers have created a novel highly porous and water repellent superhydrophobic cotton composite material containing a Metal-Organic Framework (MOF) that can selectively absorb oil from an oil-water mixture.

The MOF composite has great capability for selective separation of the oils from oil/water mixtures, and the separation efficiency lies between 95% and 98%, irrespective of the chemical composition and density of the oils.

Besides, the MOF composite is also able to absorb large volumes of oils and can be reused for minimum 10 times so that the sorbents can provide more recovery of the spilled oil

The research team was led by Shyam P. Biswas, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, IIT-Guwahati.

Explaining the goal of the research, Professor Biswas said, “In our work, we focused on a real problem in environmental water pollution in current time. Our goal was to develop a new material that could be synthesized easily and should be cost-effective. We have grown our new MOF material on the surface of medical cotton, which is environment-friendly and cost-effective. Such low-cost material will reduce the production cost of the material for large scale industrial synthesis for real applications, compared to currently available materials in the market”.

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Further, elaborating on how this research will benefit the country, Biswas said, “In a vast country like India where petroleum hydrocarbons are the major sources of fuel, accidental oil spills occur frequently here during transportation and storage of oils. The material developed in our laboratory will certainly be beneficial to reduce the environmental water pollution by efficiently absorbing the spilled oil from environmental water.”

In the petroleum industry, oil leakage and oil spill accidents happen frequently during offshore oil exploitation and oil transportation.

This severe water contamination threatens the health of human beings including other living species.

Therefore, the treatment of industrial oily wastewater and the separation of the oil spills from water has become a worldwide challenging task.

To overcome this problem, the IIT-Guwahati researchers have synthesized a superhydrophobic MOF composite with cotton to absorb oil selectively from water.

MOFs are a class of compounds containing metal ions coordinated to organic ligands to form 3D structures, with the special feature that they are often highly porous materials that act like a sponge.

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