Oil Spill Challenge “Solution Revealed” #4: Coconut Coir

Posted by JohnDila on Jul 8, 2010 9:04:33 AM


The days and weeks pass, and oil continues to blast upwards from the bottom of the Gulf. And as time marches on, we continue to receive submissions from you about how to stop the gushing oil and protect the coastline. Because of the importance and magnitude of this disaster, and because we want to keep you apprised of various InnoCentive activity around this Challenge, we are glad to share during the coming weeks the details of several key solutions and ideas we’ve received from you. Today’s post is a summary of a submission by Senthil Kumar.

The aim of this solution is to minimize the oil’s environmental impact to the ocean, land, and life. Coconut Coir (CC) is the fibrous layer outside the coconut shell. It is used around the globe in the manufacture of soil treatments, rope, and doormats.


CC can be used to absorb the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. CC is an excellent bio-absorbent, used for horticultural applications and purposes. It also has very good water retention properties.

The individual fiber cells are narrow and hollow, with thick walls made of Lignin and Cellulose. The phenolic groups in lignin are responsible for initiating the absorbent property. Lignocellulosic materials, such as CC, containing a higher amount of phenolic groups are expected to be more effective scavengers for removal of oils and hydrocarbon from the environment.

CC can absorb as much as 50 times its weight in oil.

Further, CC can be treated with keratin protein (found naturally in goat hair) to improve its oleophilic and aquaphobic properties. The chemically modified novel CC pith can be used for oil absorption and to absorb metals (chromium, lead, zinc, etc.) and hydrocarbons, and its absorbing capacity may increase up to 70%.

The advantages of using CC over other natural and synthetic products are many: it is a low cost solution; it is eco-friendly and bio-degradable; it is 100% natural and widely available (the total world CC fiber production is 250,000 tons—India produces 60% of the total world supply of white coir fiber, while Sri Lanka produces 36% of the total world brown fiber output).

Topics: Solvers, Seekers

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