Structured cone arrays for continuous and effective collection of micron-sized oil droplets from water

Nat Commun. 2013;4:2276. doi: 10.1038/ncomms3276.

Abstract

Environmental protection agencies and the petroleum industry require effective methods to separate micron-sized oil droplets from water. However, for most existing separation methods, phase separation occurs in the oil-water mixture. The remaining micron-scale oil droplets, which are not affected by phase separation, are difficult to handle with conventional methods on a large scale because of either a lack of separation ability or drawbacks in throughput capacity. Here we develop an oleophilic array of conical needle structures for the collection of micron-sized oil droplets, inspired by the collection of similar sized water droplets on conical cactus spines. Underwater, these structures mimic cacti and can capture micron-sized oil droplets and continuously transport them towards the base of the conical needles. Materials with this structure show obvious advantages in micron-sized oil collection with high continuity and high throughput.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't