The scientists say they have created a membrane that can absorb up to 20 times its weight in oil, and can be recycled many times for future use. The oil itself can also be recovered. Some 200,000 tons of oil have already been spilled at sea since the start of the decade.
"What we found is that we can make 'paper' from an interwoven mesh of nanowires that is able to selectively absorb hydrophobic liquids--oil-like liquids--from water," said Francesco Stellacci, an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and leader of the work.
The combination of a nanowire mesh and a water-repellant coating makes this material effective for the purpose. Other applications include water purification and filtering. Link (with video) -via Digg
(image credit: Francesco Stellacci, MIT, and Nature Nanotechnology)