'Chicken soup' may harbour Gulf oil spill cure

      A team of chemists have developed a non-toxic, recyclable agent that can solidify oil on salt water so that it can be scooped up like the fat that forms on the top of a pot of chilled chicken soup. The agent could potentially be used to recover oil lost in the British Petroleum (BP) spill in the Gulf of Mexico, say researchers. Dr. George John, Associate Professor at The City College of New York (CCNY) and his colleagues added a sugar compound mixed in alcohol to diesel oil floating on top of a saline solution. The result is a gel that can be scooped up, extracting the oil along with it. Since it's sugar-based- it's environment-friendly and can be obtained form renewable sources. In addition, only a relatively small amount of the agent - five percent of the volume of the oil being recovered - is required for the process. Current clean up techniques for the Gulf spill like burning, skimming oil and using chemical dispersants can be toxic to marine life and have long term ill-effects, according to John. The team's findings will be reported July 15 in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

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