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Filamentous Carbon Particles for Cleaning Oil Spills

DOE Grant Recipients

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Technology Marketing Summary

The invention provides methods and apparatus for the creation of carbon filaments used for cleaning oil spills.

Crude oil and other petroleum products can cause severe damage to the environment and wildlife when spilled into the water. Oil is not only transferred by supertanker, but also by underwater pipelines an kept in coastal storage facilities. All of these have the potential to accidentally release crude oil int the ocean and sea. Due to the extreme environmental danger, comprehensive means are necessary for removal and cleanup of the oil. This cleanup is made increasingly difficult by the fact that oil spills are unexpected events that require immediate action and readily available supplies. Cleanup of oil spills are expensive and time consuming, the Exxon Valdez company took four summers and spent $2.1 billion to cleanup the spill in 1989 which impacted 1,300 miles of ocean and coastline. Several methods exist for cleaning and removing oil from water, including: dispersants, skimmers, absorbent materials and use of fire. Dispersants are used to disperse oil to enhance evaporation and microbial activity, but dispersants are useless when oil spills are near coastal areas and can also be toxic to coral and marine life. Booms and skimmers work well in conjunction with each other, but have trouble confining and cleaning large spills. Cleanup crews may set fire to the oil, but this produces toxic smoke which also damages the environment.


Research scientists at the University of Central Florida have created unique carbon filaments as a byproduct of a portable hydrogen generator technology. These carbon filaments result from the production of hydrogen from hydrocarbon feed stocks. Carbon filaments that are produced in this manner are tubular, approximately one micron in diameter and possess large surface areas, making them ideal for adsorbing and binding with crude oil. These carbon particles could be scattered across the water surface where a spill occurred. After binding with the oil the mixture could easily be removed from the water surface. Another possibility would be depositing the carbon particles on an iron- alumina surface. When the oil binds to these heavier particles it would sink and remain under water until the oil is broken down by microbes. This would be less harmful to wildlife and keep the oil from contacting any nearby coastlines, thereby better containing the spill.


• Non-toxic carbon filaments bind to crude oil and enhance the cleaning process

• Inexpensive natural byproduct of a portable hydrogen generator

Applications and Industries

Carbon filaments would aid in the removal of oil from water surfaces in the sea and ocean. Environmental clean-up and spill prevention firms could utilize this technology in order to create products which better contain and clean up oil spills.

More Information

Lead Inventors

N.Z. Muradov, Ph.D.

Selected References

B., Carolyn / Slick Death: Oil-spill Treatment Kills Coral / Science News / 2007, 172, 67.

Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
UCF IP # 31202, 30947DevelopmentAvailable10/02/201210/02/2012

Contact GRANT About This Technology

To: John Miner<>