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Raw Low-Grade Cotton Absorbs 30 Times Its Weight in Crude Oil

Raw Low-Grade Cotton Could Clean Up Crude Oil Spills

Image source: http://www.media.ttu.edu

The inevitable spills of crude oil could be cleaned up with low-grade cotton in the future, according to research from The Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH).

Low-grade, or low-micronaire cotton, which accounts for about 10% of the cotton grown in West Texas, does not take a dye well, so it gets discounted. But according to the new research, it also happens to be remarkably effective at picking up crude oil, and can not only pick it up on the surface of the cotton, but can also absorb the oil right into the fiber itself.

In fact, it’s so effective that one single pound of the cotton can pick up more than 30 pounds of crude oil, and the natural waxiness of the material repels water, rendering it even more effective.

“One of the things we realized from Deepwater Horizon is we didn’t have the best tools for cleanup, and the technology wasn’t right for the booms. This discovery that low-micronaire cotton, which is the least valuable cotton, can absorb as much crude oil as it does is a breakthrough discovery. It gives us an excellent tool for cleanup of shorelines, animals and ecologically sensitive areas as well as a new technology for booms that can stop oil sheen moving into wetlands. And it’s biodegradable. This is just another added bonus use for low-end West Texas cotton. Now, farmers have a new use for low-end cotton in a very significant way for oil spill cleanup. It’s a major discovery from scientific and economic standpoints.” – Ron Kendall, director emeritus at TIEHH

The results of the study were published at the ACS journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.

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