The Italian Almanac

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oil spill

Italians Clean it Better

An Italian innovation is a possible candidate to take part in the clean-up of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which is causing one of the world's worst ever environmental disasters. The American company in charge of the clean-up operation has asked for samples of Polysolver, a product developed with scientists at the National Research Council (CNR) that turns into a paste-like substance when it comes into contact with oil.

This paste is relatively easy to remove from the water and can even be used as fuel afterwards or have the oil squeezed back out of it, creators claim. "Other products bond to the crude oil from above and sink, taking it down and polluting the sea bed," said Luigi Reale of the Arcobaleno company, which is part of the group that created the product. "Our product, on the other hand, attacks the hydrocarbons from below and bonds with them indissolubly, forming a paste that floats on the surface, making it easy to recover".

Experts are still trying to stop the leak that has been gushing for at least 33 days after an explosion killed 11 people on the Deepwater Horizon rig, which was drilling in a BP oil field. The resulting oil slick threatens to devastate the area's fishery and tourism industries and the habitat of hundreds of wildlife species.

As well as being effective in reducing the damage, the Italian product could also be relatively cheap. "It would cost much less than traditional methods," said Reale. "Usually they go from 15,000 to 10,000 euros a tonne, compared to 4,000 to 5,000 for Polysolver, with one kilo needed for every 10 litres of sea-water to clean up".