Oil Absorptivity of Natural Sorbents
Grace Zhu
York House School
Floor Location : M 063 V

This experiment assessed the oil absorbency of natural sorbents, mimicking one of the methods that are currently used to clean up oil spills. Absorption is a condition in which something takes in another substance, such as a sponge taking in water, and a sorbent is a material used to absorb liquids or gases. Natural sorbents were chosen rather than synthetic sorbents due to the biodegradability of natural sorbents. The test is to determine the most effective sorbent, which would absorb the most oil to the least water. Four natural sorbents, sawdust, hay, peat moss, and luffa, were each tested by way of full submersion for one minute into a graduated cylinder containing one part motor oil and three parts water. Each sorbent was tested four times, and the conditions remained constant. Results showed that the sawdust absorbed the most motor oil, and also the lowest amount of water in comparison, making it the most effective natural sorbent tested in this experiment. This is consistent with my expectations, due to the porous nature of the sawdust. The results of this experiment may be used in real-life situations of oil spills, when determining the sorbent to be used in booms. Further experimentation may aim to minimize leaching of oil from booms once recovered.