Forget the petroleum-eating microorganisms and the floating polyethylene pads designed to soak up oil. During the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, United Kingdom scientists easily could have fixed the problem with a simple invention: fabric softener soap.
That’s right. Scientists have just created the world’s first magnetic soap – a green technology invention that could help with environmental remediation efforts by allowing experts to tackle contaminated areas of the planet precisely and aggressively using magnetic force.
This magnetic soap initially was created by dissolving iron in inert materials that mirror those found in traditional fabric softener. As a result, the soap particles bore metallic centers, allowing it to simply cling to a magnet when placed in solution. The melting point and electric conductivity of the soap then could be altered using a magnet, which is a helpful quality when performing green cleanups, particularly during a sticky oil spill situation. In addition, because the soap is magnetic, it is relatively easy to clean up.
The list of more than 1,200 Environmental Protection Agency Superfund sites – locations that are contaminated with hazardous substances that can endanger both public health and the environment – remains much longer than it should be. Soil excavation and the use of permeable reactive barriers – which essentially change harmful chemicals into less harmful ones – have been cleanup methods used so far on these sites.
Maybe it’s time to add a little fabric softener to the mix.
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