New York, June 28 (IANS) Researchers, including two Indian-origin scientists, have developed an eco-friendly bio-degradable green “herding” agent that can be used to clean up light crude oil spills on water.
Derived from the plant-based small molecule phytol abundant in the marine environment, the new substance would potentially replace chemical herders currently in use.
“The best known chemical herders are chemically stable, non-biodegradable, and hence remain in the marine ecosystem for years,” said co-researcher Deeksha Gupta, post-doctoral student now at the Royal Society of Chemistry.
“Our goal was to develop an eco-friendly herding molecule as an alternative to the current silicone-based polymers,” said lead researcher George John from City College of New York.
Herding agents are surface-active molecules (surfactants) that when added to a liquid, such as seawater, reduce the surface tension.
In the case of oil spills, when they are added along the periphery of an oil spill slick, they contract and thicken the slick or push slicks together so that they can be collected or burned.
John’s research team also included Vijay John of Tulane University. The findings were published in the journal Science Advances.