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Magnetic molecules could clean oil spills

June 21, 2012 at 7:22 PM   |   Comments

BRISTOL, England, June 21 (UPI) -- European scientists say a molecule that can make "magnetic emulsions" has the potential to revolutionize the chemical industry and could clean up oil spills.

Emulsions are blends of liquids that normally do not like to mix, like oil and water, and the researchers' custom-made molecule acts as an emulsifier that can bring those incompatible liquids together.

But because the new molecule responds to magnetic fields, it could be put to use in cleaning up oil spills, the scientists said.

"We're making emulsions from essentially seawater and the kind of oils that would be spilled, and we're seeing that we can manipulate them using a magnetic field," Julian Eastoe of the University of Bristol told BBC News, calling it "a practical application without a shadow of a doubt."

The molecules created by the researchers are based on metal atoms, which respond to magnetic fields.

Even in small amounts the magnetic molecules create emulsions and could be easily implemented into current industrial or cleanup applications, the researchers said.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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