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Sponge sucks up oil from the ocean

Cheap, recyclable, and easy to use, a sponge developed in the Chemistry Department of the Riberão Preto Faculty of Philosophy, Science and Languages and Literature (FFCLRP-USP) absorbs up to 85% of oil spilled into the sea and, according to its inventors, could be extremely useful in controlling this type of ecological problem. Made of flexible polymers such as polyurethane or PVC, the sponge has structures called cucurbiturils, which have a hydrophobic central cavity that can hold molecules of oil or chemicals that do not mix with water. The new material is ideal for use as a complement to the pumping process, which removes the bulk of oil spilled into the ocean, but leaves thin layers of oil that are potentially harmful to the environment. These polluting residues can be recovered using the sponge, which can be reused at least 10 times. The sponge was patented by the USP Innovation Agency and can be licensed by companies interested in exploiting this technology.