Lanzhou Institute of Chemical Industry develops a new method for the preparation of simple and efficient oil-water separation materials

In recent years, with the frequent occurrence of industrial oily wastewater discharges and oil spills, oil-water separation has become a global challenge. Porous materials such as sponges, fabrics, and Wire Mesh are ideal materials for oil-water separation due to their large pore volume, good flexibility, and low cost and availability. However, these materials absorb water while also absorbing water. In order to solve this problem, many researchers changed the surface structure and composition of the material through chemical vapor deposition, electrospinning, laminating, phase separation, and other methods, thereby giving the porous material water and oil the opposite wetting properties. However, these technologies have some defects, such as the complex and laborious preparation process, the limited material matrix, low selectivity, and non-reusability. Therefore, the development of a versatile and simple preparation method of oil-water separation materials is an urgent problem to be solved.

The Advanced Lubrication and Protective Materials Research and Development Center of Lanzhou Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, developed a new method for the preparation of oil-water separation materials that is simple, efficient, and versatile. They immersed three typical porous materials (copper meshes, fabrics, and sponges) in a polyfluoro wax-hydrophobic silica solution, which imparts superhydrophobic properties to these materials by changing the surface structure and composition. Using them for oil-water separation, it was found that water droplets can easily roll off the surface of the material, whereas functional liquids, such as hexadecane, can completely wet the surface of the material. Superhydrophobic copper Wire mesh and fabric can be used as a separation membrane to effectively separate the oil-water mixture; the superhydrophobic sponge can be used as an oil adsorbent support to selectively absorb oil from the oil-water mixture. Moreover, these functional materials can maintain high separation efficiency after repeated use 10 times.

Compared with other methods, the method is simple, versatile, and can easily change the surface structure and composition according to the special wetting performance requirements. The substrate has a wide range of applications and low cost, and is expected to promote the large-scale application of oil-water separation materials.

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China. The research results were published in the recently published Journal of Colloid and Interface Science (432 (2014) 105–108).

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