Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have proposed a new oil spill clean-up technique which is set to be simple, fast, and energy efficient.

MIT hope to use magnets to strip the oil from the water. The whole system will be highly efficient and all parts of the system are recyclable, including the oil extracted from the water.

The idea is simple. The spilled oil would be pumped out of the sea and onto a ship where it is mixed with a water repellent ferrofluid. Ferrofluids are a magnetic liquid which contain tiny nano-magnets in a suspension. The ferrofluid would basically magnetise the oil only, allowing a large set of magnets to separate the oil from the water with an incredibly high degree of efficiency. The ferrofluid can then be separated from the oil in another part of the process.

This method for cleaning oil from water not only achieves an excellent separation, but it also uses far less energy than conventional techniques, and as the whole process can take place on-board a ship there is no need for energy to transport the oil and water mixture to land to be separated.


By. Joao Peixe of