The need for water could never be underestimated. It is the heart of the ecosystem as well as that of the socioeconomic sector.
Oil spills on water are not limited to affecting the environment but also result to economic losses in the fishing industry, tourism and petroleum companies. Skimmers and booms are used to separate oil from water. However, there is still 5 to 10% of water in the recovered oil. Various alternatives have been used such as special wettability membranes, selective sorbents or gelators, and pickering emulsions.
There had been extensive studies regarding the use of selective sorbents in removing oil. Many benefits can be seen in these including the fast recovery of the oil and endurance under harsh marine conditions. There also had been a continuous growth on researches regarding oil spill cleanup through sorbents and nanoparticle technology. Carbon nanotubes, carbon aerogels, biochar, and graphene-based sorbents are some of the various kinds of carbon materials utilized as oil sorbents. The limitations of these sorbents involve a one-step facile production and high sorption capacities.
One approach in cleaning up oil spills is through plasma polymerization which is surface modification using plasma. This method has been studied since the sixties. According to Advanced Science News, "A team of researchers from Argentine developed a highly hydrophobic with high oil adsorption capacities plasma‐polymerized carbonaceous nanosponge (CN). It consists of a powder‐like agglomeration of nanoparticles conforming a porous micrometric structure. Selective sorption of the CN makes them suitable in various applications, including the areas of water filtration, liquid separation and hydrocarbons spill cleanup."
The team developed a nanoporous material (CN) that has both oleophilicity and superhydrophobicity. Hydrocarbons from water adsorbed efficiently and selectively through CN. "Due to its versatile deposition, the CN could be used for surface treatment of textiles or metal meshes, producing membranes with potential applications as selective barriers for oil/water separation" according to team member Silvia Goyanes.