It’s an attractive idea. Magnets could be used to pull oil from spills out of the water, with the help of iron oxide nanoparticles. The stickiness of oil makes it difficult to remove from marine plants and animals once it is leaked by tankers and offshore rigs, so finding a way to quickly remove spills is essential for protecting ocean environments. Now Yi Du at the University of Wollongong, Australia, and his team have found a way to do this, using tiny particles of iron oxide that bind tightly to droplets of oil. When added to small water tanks polluted with oil, these 25-nanometre-wide particles turn the oil into a magnetic liquid that can be drawn towards a simple bar magnet.
The auction has been closed.