Research Highlight

Organogelators for combating oil spills

doi:10.1038/nindia.2016.24 Published online 17 February 2016

Researchers have synthesized organogelators that, when applied as powder, can congeal crude oil, benzene, diesel separately from mixtures with water1. These organogelators are potentially useful for combating large oil spills that contaminate sea water and threaten marine organisms.

The researchers synthesized five organogelators by using glucose and simple chemicals. Two of these organogelators formed gels with crude oil more efficiently than the other three. The gels formed by these organogelators showed good thermal stability over several months under ambient conditions.

The scientists then explored the efficiencies of the two organogelators to remove crude oil, benzene and diesel from separate mixtures with water. They found that both organogelators selectively congealed oil from water without affecting the water phase.

When a fine powder prepared using the organogelators was sprayed onto a mixture of benzene and water, a thick layer of benzene formed within an hour; this layer could be skimmed off with a sieved scoop. The organogelators also formed a thick layer of crude oil in a mixture of crude oil and water. This layer was strong enough to scoop with a spatula.

β€œIn the future, it will be possible to aerially spray a fine powder of the organogelators that can form gels with spilled crude oil in sea water, facilitating removal of crude-oil-bound gels,” says lead researcher Kana Sureshan.


1. Vibhute, A. M. et al. A sugar-based gelator for marine oil-spill recovery. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 55, 1–5 (2016)