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Oil Spill Still Too Slippery To Solve (But Here Are Some Videos)

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So far, an estimated 82 million gallons of oil have leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. Everything BP has tried to stop one of the largest oil spills in history has failed. The company has tried everything from “junk shots” to “top kill” to containment domes, and is still spending $100 million a day to try to cap the well and clean up the mess. The company is even open to suggestions.

Whether they are submitted to BP or not, lots of smart people are sharing solutions their own solutions. Below are some of the suggested cleanup solutions, with videos explaining the technologies.

Oil Cleanup Ideas

For instance, actor Kevin Costner (remember Waterworld?) has funded and deployed devices designed to separate oil from water. The separated oil can be reused after it is collected.

Another approach, from Mobius Technologies, uses an oil-absorbing powder to trap oil molecules in a cake-like trap. The company claims it can provide a million pounds of the substance every two weeks, enough to absorb 25,000 barrels of oil. But with oil spilling at a rate of 100,000 barrels per day, this solution alone would be like slapping a band-aid on an amputation. The other issue would be how to collect the caked-up oil from the surface of the ocean—perhaps with a fleet of boats dragging huge skimmers.

Texas Tech’s Fibertect wipe slurps up oil from water surfaces, and possibly oil-drenched animals as well. But again, how many yards of this cloth would be needed to make a difference and is trawling an effective clean-up method?

One proposed solution is using oil-eating Oyster Mushrooms to gobble up oil that washes up on the shore:

While these ideas hold promise for helping to clean up the mess, it doesn’t plug the gushing pipe. Some are discussing ways to stop the spillage on independent forums and media sites, while others illustrate concepts with animations for a conical stopper:

and freezing the oil with liquid nitrogen to weld the pipe shut:

Brad Feld of the Foundry Group in Boulder, Colo. wants to see brilliant minds inspired by this quick-thinking solution from the movie Apollo 13 (“Let’s build a filter”):

Feld proposes gathering the smartest MIT students for a massive brainstorming session.

Incidentally, MIT has its own plans going, including an oil-eating self-propelling robot, mentioned yesterday at the TEDxOilSpill conference in D.C. Think you could do better? Enter the X-Prize competition for a chance to be an environmental superhero and win a cool $3 million.


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