Thermo-Reversible Phase Selective Sorbent Xenogels for Oil Spill Containment

Invention Summary:

Waterways are a major mode of transport for the world’s petrochemical supply. Although there are tremendous benefits and necessities for shipping over water, there are also risks as demonstrated by the over 30 significant oil spills. Current materials used to reclaim oil are subdivided into three primary categories: dispersants, sorbents and solidifiers.

Dispersants are most commonly used where the material emulsifies the oil spill into small finely divided droplets which are dispersed into the environment. Sorbents are typically powders that selectively absorb the oil via capillary forces of the super--hydrophobic matrix. Solidifiers gel the material on the surface of the water.

Researchers at Rutgers have discovered a highly effective sorbent material that adsorbs apolar, spilled materials in aqueous environments. These xenogels, being thermoreversible, allow both the spilled oil to be reclaimed and also the gelator may be reused to engineer new xenogels for oil spill containment and clean up. This environmentally benign gelator makes this technology one of the greenest technologies to contain and remove spilled oil from the environment. Experimental testing has shown that the xenogels, when placed in oil contaminated water, will increase their mass by 387 ± 21 % in only a few hours. Repeating the same test in water only leads to a 3.85% increase in the same time frame.

Market Applications:

  • Adsorption of apolar spilled materials in aqueous environment 
    • Nitriles: Acetonitriles 
    • Ketons: Butanone, Acetone 
    • Ethers: Polyethylene Glycol, Dimethyl Ether 
    • Aldehydes: Formaldehyde(methanal), Butyraldehyde (butanal)


  • Thermo-reversible allow the spilled oil to be reclaimed and the gelator may be reused to engineer new xenogels 
  • Collection does not depend on environmental factors (i.e. temperature)
  • Green technology used to collect and contain spilled oil/gasoline in aqueous environments
  • Allows for easy separation of sorbent materials and collected oils 

Intellectual Property & Development Status:

Patent pending

Relevant Publications:

  • Rogers, M.A., Abraham, S., Bodondics, F., and Weiss, R.G. 2012. Positional Isomers of Hydroxyoctadecanoic Acid Molecular Gels and Dispersions Influence Crystallization Kinetics and Activation Energies. Crystal Growth & Design. DOI: 10.1021/cg301071x
  • Gao, J., Wu, S., and Rogers, M.A. 2012. Harnessing Hansen Solubility Parameters To Predict Organogel Formation. Journal of Materials Chemistry. 22, 12651-12658.
Rutgers ID: 2013-035
Physical Sciences
Deborah Perez
Senior Licensing Manager
Michael Rogers
Oil Absorbtion