NC State
Hubbe, M. A., Rojas, O. J., Fingas, M., and Gupta, B. S. (2013). "Cellulosic substrates for removal of pollutants from aqueous systems: A Review. 3. Spilled oil and emulsified organic liquids," BioRes. 8(2), 3038-3097.


Water-insoluble oils, including crude petroleum and a wide variety of refined organic liquids, can cause major problems if spilled or leaked to aqueous environments. Potential environmental damage may be reduced if the spilled oil is promptly and efficiently removed from the water. This article reviews research that sheds light on the use of cellulose-based materials as sorbents to mitigate effects of oil spills. Encouraging results for oil sorption have been reported when using naturally hydrophobic cellulosic fibers such as unprocessed cotton, kapok, or milkweed seed hair. In addition, a wide assortment of cellulosic materials have been shown to be effective sorbents for hydrocarbon oils, especially in the absence of water, and their performance under water-wet conditions can be enhanced by various pretreatments that render them more hydrophobic. More research is needed on environmentally friendly systems to handle oil-contaminated sorbents after their use; promising approaches include their re-use after regeneration, anaerobic digestion, and incineration, among others. Research is also needed to further develop combined response systems in which biosorption is used along with other spill-response measures, including skimming, demulsification, biodegradation, and the use of booms to limit the spreading of oil slicks.
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