Evaluating the Efficacy of Cattail (Typha spp.) Fiber for Oil Sorption
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Oil spills pose a serious threat to aquatic life, the environment, and human health. Current methods to remove oil from waterways and mitigate damage include burning, skimming, and synthetic sorbents; however, they all have substantial limitations. Previous studies have shown that cattail (Typha spp.) fibers have potential as natural sorbents due to their hydrophobic and lipophilic properties. Additionally, cattail may be a more sustainable alternative than other natural sorbents including cotton. It is easily harvested, can be grown in a wide range of climates and has a smaller water footprint than cotton. The purpose of this study was to conduct a materials comparison between cattail fiber and other products such as cotton under varying water conditions for application as a sorbent during oil spill cleanup and remediation. Oil sorption of cattail and cotton was measured and expressed as gram-to-gram ratio of oil-to-fiber under a range of environmental conditions including water temperature and salinity. In cattail, the effectiveness of oil sorption decreased at higher temperatures and this also led to a decrease in selectivity in an oil/water mixture. Cotton sorbed more oil than cattail under any conditions, but also sorbed more water so cotton was not as selective as cattail in sorbing oil under moderate temperatures. These results demonstrate that cattail would be a better sorbent than cotton except in very warm waters since it is more selective for oil compared to water, and provide information necessary for future developments in sorbent technology using cattails.