A significant amount of effort is being devoted by scientists and industry in order to increase the efficiency of oil spill recovery equipment as it determines the impact of oil spills on coastal ecosystems as well as the time and cost of cleanup operations. One way to increase the efficiency of adhesion skimmers is to replace traditional recovery materials with polymeric materials that have the highest affinity for oil. The research conducted at the University of California Santa Barbara has shown that modern scientific equipment such as a Dynamic Contact Angle Analyzer can be used for evaluation of candidate materials and selection of materials that can be most efficiently used for oil spill cleanup. The study found that the contact angle formed between oil and test surface can be used to characterize the affinity of material to oil. The contact angle correlates well with the mass of recovered oil. For a given oil, the lower the contact angle the higher the recovered mass. The study also showed that surface roughness and oil composition have a significant effect on the results of the adhesion tests. Higher roughness results in lower contact angle and larger recovered mass, for the same oil-polymer pair.

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Author notes

1 The work presented here reflects the opinion of the authors and is not necessarily that of the funding agencies (United States Dept. of the Interior, Mineral Management Service and University of California Toxic Substances Research and Teaching Program).