Oil Spill Challenge “Solution Revealed” #6: Baking Soda and Nylons

Posted by JohnDila on Jul 23, 2010 12:44:23 PM

baking_sodaThe days and weeks pass, and, until last week, oil continued to blast upwards from the bottom of the Gulf. As time marches on, the pace of new solutions has slowed as well, yet we still continue to receive submissions from you about how to stop the gushing oil and protect the coastline.

With the end of the Gulf Oil Spill Challenge in sight, we wanted to showcase an innovative solution that was submitted by a student from an Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Sciences class from high school in New Jersey.


What I love about this piece is that it came from the leaders of tomorrow (students), it’s simple, and it focuses on the future (the clean up) even while many people and politicians remain focused on the past (blame) or the present (capping the wellhead). Here is the submission:

“Recently in our AP Environmental class, my teacher came in and told us about the oil spill.

He then told us about your website and began having us work on the clean up crisis of the oil.

All of the students partnered up and started to try out their ideas, if they had any.

I then came up with the idea to use baking soda, which led to some good results, and which ultimately led to an expansion of the idea:

We discovered that baking soda would create tar balls for a long enough period of time that you could place something underneath them, collect them, and drag them out of the water in tact.

So then my friend and I tried placing nylon stocking on the oil to see if it would allow the oil to pass through, and it worked.

Nylon stockings allow the oil to seep through, but they block the clean water.

The result of our tests culminated in our final idea, which actually cleaned up the water to near perfect quality:

  • Place the stocking on top of the oil (the oil passes through this porous barrier)
  • Sprinkle baking soda on the stocking and the oil
  • Wait up to one minute
  • Pull the stockings out of the water, which collects the tar balls and leaves the water nearly completely clean

We tested this in class on a large scale and we were able to accomplish getting the water clean.

I hope this idea helps in the crisis and we wish you the best of luck!”

Topics: Solvers, Seekers

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