A strategy for removing oils and other organic pollutants from water using a material which is re-usable is reported in Nature Communications this week. Porous boron nitride, a nanostructured material which is structurally related to grapheme, is capable of absorbing many times its own weight in oils and it may be easily cleaned for reuse by heating in air.
Many nanostructured materials with high surface areas are capable of absorbing organic pollutants from water but regeneration and recycling ability has been a problem. Boron nitride possesses many of the structural requirements for an absorbent material, along with chemical and thermal stability, and Weiwei Lei and colleagues have shown that it is capable of absorbing 33 times its own weight in oil. They also show that it may be regenerated quickly by simply burning the oil, or more efficiently, with a near complete regeneration of absorbent properties, by heating in a furnace for 2 hours. They suggest that this material may be suitable for a wide range of applications in local water purification and treatment.