Superomniphilic Poly (glycerol sebacate)–Poly (l-lactic acid) Electrospun Membranes for Oil Spill Remediation


Oil spills are global disasters and whenever they occur a massive trail of dead marine flora and fauna is left behind. With such detrimental effects, the race to design a universal absorbent material/process that can aid contain oil spills is intensifying. At present, the available materials that can be used to remediate oil spills are either superhydrophilic or superoleophilic. They do so by enabling complete separation of apolar fluids from water. Universal sponges/pads based on cellulose, polypropylene, and polyesters have similar properties though their uptake capacity is usually limited to a ratio of 1:1(solvent:polymer mass) and therefore there is need to develop alternatives having higher absorbing capacities. Superomniphilic materials are materials that have superhydrophilic and superoleophilic properties. Recently, the potential of hydrophobic and oleophilic electro-spun membranes for application in oil-water separation has been discovered. Unfortunately, the use of superhydrophilic and selective membranes for oil spills remediation, especially in large areas, remains a scientific challenge.

University of Wollongong researchers in Australia (Yi Yan, Vitor Sencadas, Jiangshan Zhang, Dongbin Wei, and Zhengyi Jiang) developed a superomniphilic membrane by mixing two biodegradable polyesters in a compatible solvent. The novel biodegradable polymeric blend membrane with superomniphilic properties was produced by a scalable process, which could be easily implemented to fight against environmental disasters such as large area oil spills. Their work is now published in the research journal, Advanced Materials Interfaces.

The researchers mixed the two biodegradable polyesters, poly (L-lactic acid) and poly (glycerol sebacate). They then electrospun the solution into a ground collector where they obtained randomly oriented fiber mats. Eventually, the research team systematically addressed the influence of the poly (glycerol sebacate), ratio on the wettability properties of the blend in the presence of different polar and apolar solvents.

The authors observed that the sample with 25% by weight of poly (glycerol sebacate), could uptake polar and apolar solvents thereby presenting a superhydrophilic behavior. The poly (L-lactic acid)/poly (glycerol sebacate), composite was also found to be reusable up to 10 cycles of solvent (water of organic solvents) absorption with a separation efficiency of 99.5% with its general appearance being seen to resemble the first absorption/compression cycle.

The study by University of Wollongong scientists presented a new  facile technique that can be used to prepare a superomniphilic and biodegradable core–shell structure. This technique has been seen to immobilize the poly (glycerol sebacate) polymer onto the surface of the poly (L-lactic acid) electro-spun fibers, thereby increasing the presence of hydroxyl groups on the surface of the membranes. This novel biodegradable polymeric blend membrane with superomniphilic properties, produced by a scalable process, has potential application in fighting against environmental disasters such as large area oil spills.

About the author

Professor Zhengyi Jiang is currently Senior Professor and Leader of Advanced Micro Manufacturing Centre at the University of Wollongong (UOW). He has been carrying out research on rolling mechanics with over 28 years expertise in rolling theory and technology, tribology in metal manufacturing, contact mechanics and computational mechanics in metal manufacturing, numerical simulation of metal manufacturing, advanced micro manufacturing, development of novel composites, and artificial intelligent applications in rolling process. He obtained his PhD from Northeastern University in 1996, and was promoted full professor at Northeastern University in 1998 and at UOW in 2010.

He has over 500 publications (more than 380 journal articles) and 3 monographs in the area of advanced metal manufacturing. He has been awarded over 30 prizes and awards from Australia, Japan and China, including ARC Future Fellowship (FT3), Australian Research Fellowship (twice), Endeavour Australia Cheung Kong Research Fellowship and Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Invitation Fellowship. He is currently leading a highly motivated research team at UOW on rolling mechanics, advanced micro manufacturing, computational mechanics and multi-scale simulation in metal manufacturing. He also has extensive experience in managing large research projects where he is project leader. He was Deputy Director of the State Key Laboratory of Rolling Technology and Automation (1996-1998), the only State Key Laboratory in rolling and automation area in China, and has accumulated broad knowledge and extensive interdisciplinary experience through his work in Australia, Japan and China.

About the author

Yi Yan received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from University of Science and Technology Beijing (China) in Materials Physics (2009) and Materials Processing (2012), respectively, and his Ph.D. degree from University of Wollongong, Australia in Materials Engineering (2017). He is currently a Lecturer of Nanchang Hangkong University, China. His research interests include polymer-based biomaterials, flexible strain sensor and fiber-reinforced composites.

About the author

Jiangshan Zhang studied on Metallurgical Engineering at the Hebei United University and the University of Science and Technology Beijing, China from 2007 to 2014. He then commenced his PhD study on Materials Science at the University of Wollongong, Australia in 2014. His work is focused in advanced composite materials, mathematical simulation, extractive metallurgy and design of ladle shrouds in steelmaking tundish.

About the author

Vitor Sencadas received his PhD in Physics at the University of Minho, Portugal in 2009. He was a Research Fellow at Centre of Physics of University of Minho (2010-2014) and an Invited Lecture at Polytechnic Institute of Cávado and Ave (2011-2014).  Since 2015, he joined University of Wollongong as a Lecture and is a member of the Engineering Materials Strength, leading the Smart Macromolecules Research Group and Associate Investigator of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials (ACES, Australia). His work is focused in polymer based smart materials for stretchable sensors and actuators, energy harvesting and storage, biomedical and environmental applications.

About the author

Dongbin Wei is an Associate Professor in the School of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering at the University of Technology Sydney. Dongbin was awarded his PhD from the University of Science and Technology Beijing in 2001. He completed his Bachelor of Engineering in 1990 and Master of Engineering in 1996 at Northeastern University, China. Dongbin worked as a Research Associate, Research Fellow then Lecturer at University of Wollongong from 2005 to 2012. He was appointed as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney in 2013.  He also worked in China Center of Information Industry Development as a Research Engineer, and Maanshan Iron and Steel Co. Ltd as an Engineer.


Yi Yan, Vitor Sencadas, Jiangshan Zhang, Dongbin Wei, Zhengyi Jiang. Superomniphilic Poly (glycerol sebacate)–Poly (l-lactic acid) Electrospun Membranes for Oil Spill Remediation. Adv. Mater. Interfaces 2017, volume 4, 1700484

Go To Advanced Materials Interfaces 

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