FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | Tue Jul 30 13:07:48 EDT 2013

American Chemical Society podcast: Cotton is an eco-friendly way to clean up oil spills

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2013 — The latest episode in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) award-winning Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions podcast series describes a report demonstrating that unprocessed, raw cotton has an amazing ability to sop up oil while also being eco-friendly.

Based on a report by Seshadri Ramkumar, Ph.D., in the ACS journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, the new podcast is available without charge at iTunes and from www.acs.org/globalchallenges.

In light of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, Ramkumar notes that a particular need exists for oil-spill sorbents that are abundantly available at relatively low cost. They also should be sustainable and biodegradable. There have been extensive studies on fibers such as barley straw, kapok and wool — but big gaps in knowledge about how they take up crude oil, and no data on unprocessed raw cotton.

Ramkumar’s team decided to fill those gaps with research on “low micronaire” cotton, a form of unprocessed cotton with relatively less commercial value.

They report that each pound of the cotton has the ability to sop up and hold more than 30 pounds of crude oil. “In contrast to synthetic sorbents, raw cotton with its high crude oil sorption capacity and positive environmental footprint make it an ecologically friendly sorbent for oil spill cleanups,” the report concludes.

Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions is a series of podcasts describing some of the 21st century’s most daunting problems, and how cutting-edge research in chemistry matters in the quest for solutions. Global Challenges is the centerpiece in an alliance on sustainability between ACS and the Royal Society of Chemistry. Global Challenges is a sweeping panorama of global challenges that includes dilemmas such as providing a hungry and thirsty world with ample supplies of safe food and clean water, developing alternatives to petroleum to fuel society, preserving the environment and ensuring a sustainable future for our children and improving human health.

For more entertaining, informative science videos and podcasts from the ACS Office of Public Affairs, view Prized Science, Spellbound, Science Elements and Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions.

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The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.