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Super sponge that absorbs oil and bioplastic

Super sponge that absorbs oil and bioplastic


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A super sponge and a bio plastic, are not two elements of a science fiction film or a dystopian novel but two of the most interesting scientific "gimmicks" that compete to win European Inventor Award 2017. Interesting for the research work they involved, but also for the green impact they would have if they became part of the common life of all of us inhabitants of the Earth. Let's see what these are and why they can potentially help us change the fate of the planet.

Super oil-absorbing sponge: what it is

Is called Mashed potato, this sponge nicely called “super sponge” as it has been shown to absorb oil and other water-insoluble chemicals before and better than other materials. It is a synthetic wax, invented on German chemist Günter Hufschmid thus deserving to be among the finalists of the European Inventor Award 2017. This super sponge, composed of binder wax, is perfect to absorb what is accidentally spilled into the water, whether it is petroleum or another chemical.

Super sponge: benefits for the environment

They already call it magic cotton, this gives the idea of ​​how much "power" the soft wax has and we will have to deal with. We can use it for "clean ”the Earth, certainly not polishing it like a worktop, but leaving this super sponge absorbs pollutants quickly in quantities equal to seven times its weight. A real magic and can also be wrung out and reused several times. This makes it usable both in the home and in the more industrial sector, for example by companies that have wastewater treatment plants or by those who deal with clean up polluted rivers and lakes.

Millions of liters of crude oil are poured into the oceans every year, oil spills into water are one of the main ecological challenges and the super sponge is a revolutionary innovation that can change winning it.

Super sponge: the story

It was born by chance, Mashed potatowhen an employee of a German company which makes waxes, paints and plastics, left a car running all night with the wrong settings. That company was there Deurex and the German chemist Günter Hufschmid with his internal collaborators he has followed up on this "error" making it brilliant.

Just in 2010, when the explosion of the drilling platform Deepwater Horizon led to the spill of 774 million liters of crude oil in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Hufschmid and his team, with 10 tons of accidentally produced soft wax in hand, were wondering what to do with it. They have succeeded in making the super sponge an invention to be rewarded because today it is proven that with Pure to clean up a spill it would take much less material.

Doing the math is useful a liter of Mashed potato every 8 liters of pollutant, moreover it acts faster and leaves no chemical or other residue, it can be wrung out and reused.

Super sponge between present and future

Having cooperated with several non-governmental organizations to clean rivers and lakes, also in Nigeria, the goal of Deurex, is to ensure that the patent can be successful on the market. Today in Saxony there is a plant capable of produce 700 tons per year, Further investments are planned in Germany and other countries.

Bioplastic: what it is

The second prize-winning invention is that of 'green' plastic made from plants and which turns out to be the ecological alternative to PET. For this material the Dutch chemist Gert-Jan Gruter was nominated among a finalist at the European Inventor Awards 2017. Thegreen antagonist of PET is called PEF, it is a plastic derived from plant starches and which boasts superior performance to current PET, which is also derived from petroleum.

No one had found before Gruter an efficient and green way to replace PET, not that it was at least widespread on a large scale. After a century of publications and patents on the FDCA, without ever marketable successes, Gruter has changed its approach by managing to produce FDCA from starches efficiently. All thanks to a process now called YXY and which underlies polyethylene furanoate (PEF), able to offer all these advantages of PET and more, since it has a greater rigidity, thus reducing production costs.

More robust and able to block the passage of oxygen 10 times better than PET, PEF makes the bottles more capable of keeping their contents cool, and carbon dioxide, in the case of carbonated liquids, transpires 5 times less. So there are obvious economic and quality advantages that go hand in hand with the environmental ones.

Bioplastic and benefits for the environment

Such a material can really help the Earth and us who inhabit it given the millions of plastic bottles produced with great expenditure of energy, bought every day in the world and very difficult to dispose of.

In the Avantium, Gert-Jan Gruter together with his collaborators he managed to develop PEF without any petroleum derivatives and therefore completely recyclable. To understand how green it is compared to PET just think that in its life cycle it reduces CO2 emissions by up to 70%, this result is only a beginning to be able to truly face a problem that affects us all with a tangible and concrete innovation, because we all use a lot of plastic willy-nilly.

In the world, every year, we can count 300 million tons and it is material that "weighs" on the environment and on the quality of life of those who live there and those who will live there.

Bioplastics and partners

Founded in 2000, Avantium was listed on the stock exchange in March 2017 and today has 150 employees. As for the production of the PEF, a pilot plant has existed since 2011 but to bring the technology to market, Avantium partnered and in 2016, formed a joint venture with BASF for the production and marketing of PEF.

It is in the design phase an industrial-scale production facility in Antwerp (Belgium) which will be able to produce 50,000 tons per year. A significant step towards the main goal: bringing PEF bottles to the market in 2021 and to secure a presence in the world market for the production of bottles which is worth 32-37 billion euros per year.

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