Some Universities try to replicate a 1997 Greek patent! This is the first footage made by BBC World during the execution of the European Project "CLEANMAG : Demonstration and Large Scale application of the magnetic technology for the cleanup of waterborne oil spills" (LIFE99 ENV/GR/567)
The method is basically using a magnetic POROUS material (so is floating all the times) which is olleophillic (sorbs only oily substances and not water). The amount of sorbtion is up to 10 times the weight of the material used (cleanmag) and the residual oil pollution has been certified to be at the order of 10 ppb (1500 less than the standards of MARPOL 73/78 which is 15 ppm). This is an ALL weather technology. After the collection of the material using magnetic conveyor belts (rate of collection for a conveyor of 1m in width is about 11 tons/hour of pure oil).
After the collection of the material +sorbed oil , the pulp could be used or recycled as follows:
a) getting the oil by chemical extraction and then incinerate the rest of material in high temperatures in cement kilns, without harming the air (no fluorocarbons or dioxins)
b) incinerate directly the whole pulp again in cement industry or power plants
c) first presurizing the pulp and getting the oil and subsequently use the remaining material in asphaltic products for road pavement.
For up to tier 1 spills , there are available the magnetic skimmer vessels which they apply the material by a pneumatic way on the spill. For large oil spills could be used fire fighting helicopters throuing the material by air, or also firefighting planes (i.e. canadair type) which are made from aluminum withought the danger of "clogging" the outlets, since the magnetic material does not stick on the aluminum.
The technology has been approved by EPA of USA, and has been awarded 4 times up today for its innovative character and real time demo results (including also an award by IMO -Seatrade award in Dubai in 2005).
Recently the press release from a Ubiversity indicates that researchers there tried in someway to "replicate " the technology by using magnetic nanoparticles. From the related article it is understood that the goal and idea is the same, with the difference that instead of a porous material (in order to stay afloat all the times), nanoparticles are being used.
The short coming of using of nanoparticles in this technology though according to our experience are the following:
a) you need a high concentration of them in order to have strong enough magnetic collection by applying a high field gradient. Thus by apllying a lot of this "nanopowder" over a spill (if this powder whole amount finally ends up in the spill) it turns the oil in such a heavy "ferrofluid" that eventually sinks. This is because there are no material pores that contain "air jackets" in order to stay afloat all the times in all weather conditions!! No need to mention of the fact that ferrous oxide nanoparticles present a bulk density of more that 4 g/cc!! (heavier than oil and water).
b) The difficulty in spraying by any means of these particles on a spill is going to be extremely difficult since the nanoparticle would behave in the air as the dust particles. Obviously a lot of them would end up in pure water sinking finally directly to the sea bed.
c) the recycling is going to be extremely difficult (extracting the oil from them) since the affinity of the nanoparticle surface towards the oil attraction would be very high!
see also :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LMoh7...
for more info:
Prof. George Nicolaides
TEI of Piraeus
Thivon 250, Aegaleo