Carbon Nanotube Sponge Could Suck Up Oil Spills

A new carbon sponge can soak up 180 times its own weight in organic matter

Carbon Sponge

Can't touch thisPeking University and Tsinghua University

Spongebob may want to look into a nanotech upgrade that could permit him to walk on water. Chinese scientists have created carbon nanotube sponges that don't absorb water, leaving them plenty of room for absorbing oil or other icky organic goo.

The new sponges rely upon interconnected carbon nanotubes that naturally repel water, and can absorb 180 times their weight in organic matter. Current sponges used for oil spill cleanups and industrial applications can only absorb up to 20 times their own weight.

Nanotube researchers typically aim to create highly ordered arrays of tubes. But the Chinese researchers behind the new study, published in Advanced Materials, focused instead on creating a highly disordered structure where tubes could form a close interlocking network. That reduced the sponge size by 95 percent and created a product exceptionally resistant to breaking, according to Materials Views.

A single sponge can absorb an oil slick up with an area up to 800 times that of the sponge. Those interested in a quick look at the miracle of squeeze science can check out the video below.