on January 11th, 2010
This is the discovery that could put the on the map: . Put together like a nano-matrix, the new glass can unfold to hold up to eight times its weight. The glass binds with gasoline and other pollutants containing but it does not bind with water, so it acts like a “smart” sponge, capable of picking and choosing from contaminated groundwater.
The new material was developed by of the College of Wooster, who formed a new company, , to market the new glass under the trademark . A number of pilot sites are being tested in the
, and industrialized countries are not the only ones that stand to gain. Obsorb’s unique properties make it ideal for low tech, low-budget cleanups in developing areas as well. United States
Obsorb is a . Unlike conventional glass, it can bond with the chemicals it encounters. However, it is also hydrophobic, meaning that it does not bond with water. At a recent pilot demonstration in
, Obsorb was used in the form of a white powder to suck up a plume of (a volatile organic compound). TCE is particularly difficult and expensive to clean up using conventional means, which is the reason why some contaminated sites are simply shut down, allowing the vapors to dissipate naturally. The process takes decades, so Obsorb could provide a low-cost means of recovering sites more quickly. The venture development group saw the potential and has just committed a $250,000 investment to Absorbent Materials. Ohio
Once full, Obsorb floats to the surface, where it can be skimmed off with something as simple as a coffee filter. After that the pollutants can be retrieved and the glass can be reused hundreds of time. Nanoparticles of iron can also be added to convert TCE or PCE (another volatile organic compound) into harmless substances. As a low cost form of cleanup, swelling glass could provide site remediators with yet another in the growing list of non-conventional cleanup tools along with , vitamin B-12, and even .