Using Magnets to Clean Up Oil Spills

MIT researchers have developed a new technique that could be used to help clean up oil spills. The technology would be an add-on to devices such as skimmers, which only have an oil-recovery efficiency of about 50%. The technique involves mixing water-repellent ferrous nanoparticles with the oil, which could then be separated from the water using magnets. The researchers envision that the process would take place aboard an oil-recovery vessel, to prevent the nanoparticles from contaminating the environment. Afterward, the nanoparticles could be magnetically removed from the oil and reused.