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58 Please remember to mention OVL when responding to adverts SCIENCE Did you know Stelios Mores The devastation caused by oil spills to the sea and its inhabitants is a reality that on occasions makes headline news and is dealt with at great cost. Skimming the oil off the sea surface is the approach typically used as a first step in rectifying the situation and this is followed by the use of dispersants which are essentially soap-like chemicals that allow the water and the oil to mix and dissolve into the sea. Significant problems can arise with the first stage of the process in particular as often storms rough seas and generally bad weather can thwart these attempts to deal with the oil. Once dispersed the pollutants degrade over time but unfortunately can end up in the food chain. This is a major headache for anyone who likes a bit of fish with their chips. Needless to say our methods for dealing with such environmental calamities are somewhat limited and specialists in oil spill containment have recognised over many years that what is key to a successful oil spill containment operations is a reliable and practical means for separating the water from the oil. Recently a team of chemical engineers at the University of Ohio in the U.S. was inspired by the bumpy leaves of the lotus plant to create a low- cost stainless steel net which allows water to pass through it but not oil. The lotus leaves have a surface which naturally repels water but not oil and which consist of large polymer molecules in which soap-like surfactant molecules are embedded. The team replicated this on a stainless steel mesh by spraying it with a fine dusting of silica nanoparticles to mimic the bumpy surface then added a polymer and a surfactant layer on top. The nets can be manufactured to a scale which can cope with the large tracts of sea that often need to be cleaned and at a low cost. So it seems to be a case of the lotus plant coming to the rescue of the oil platform. Sticking to the subject of cleaning water and in particular clean drinking water a team at Redeemers University in Nigeria have come up with a novel low-cost method for removing impurities from water using the seeds of the plant made famous by Baloo in Disneys rendition of the Jungle Book the pawpaw. Currently wastewater treatments rely on chemicals such as zeolites which are extremely porous aluminosilicate materials and activated carbon membranes. Unfortunately these are technologies which are typically beyond the budgets of third world countries who would most benefit from clean water supplies and an efficient wastewater treatment infrastructure. Catching Oil Lotus Fashion The Bare Necessities of Cleanliness