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Shish–Kebab-Structured UHMWPE Coating for Efficient and Cost-Effective Oil–Water Separation

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posted on 2020-12-17, 18:39 authored by Binbin Dong, Yahao Guo, Shuangjie Sun, Hao-Yang Mi, Ping He, Maxwell Fordjour Antwi-Afari, Chuntai Liu, Changyu Shen
High-performance low-cost superhydrophobic sponges are desired for selective recycling of leaking oils from open water. Herein, an ingenious method is proposed to fabricate an ultrathin superhydrophobic coating layer on a commercial sponge. The coating layer is composed of a shish–kebab-structured porous ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) film that is fabricated from a UHMWPE/xylene solution by shear flow-induced crystallization. A strong relationship between the shish–kebab crystallite morphology and the superwetting performance is confirmed. The UHMWPE coating layer fabricated at a 900 rpm rotation rate possesses a lamellae size of 95.1 nm and a lamellae distance of 27.4 nm, which lead to a high water contact angle of 157° and a low contact angle hysteresis of 4.5°. The UHMWPE layer prepared in 4 min of treatment is thick enough to prevent the intrusion of water even under vacuum and remain superoleophilic. The developed UHMWPE-coated sponge (UCS) exhibited a high absorption capability of 70–191 g/g toward various oils and solvents, which is comparable with the neat melamine sponge. Its excellent compressibility and durability enabled fast recovery of absorbed oil with a high recovery rate (over 85%) by mechanical squeezing. The UCS could be assembled into small devices to selectively collect oil from open water and a water/oil mixture using a pump, which manifests its promising practical applicability. Apart from these extraordinary properties, the approach developed has the lowest material cost and the shortest processing time hitherto.