Next “Science on Tap” features prof researching oil spill-cleanup technology

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A Purdue University materials engineering professor developing a technology that could be used to help with environmental cleanups such as the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill is the featured speaker July 22 at the next Science on Tap forum.

Jeffrey Youngblood

Jeffrey Youngblood, Associate Professor of Materials Engineering, Purdue University

Professor Jeffrey Youngblood‘s presentation, titled “Superficial Science: Polymer Surface Science at Purdue,” is scheduled to begin at 6p in the upstairs of the Lafayette Brewing Company, 622 Main St., in downtown Lafayette.

The talk, sponsored by Discovery Park and the Purdue School of Materials Engineering, is free and open to the public to those ages 21 and older.

Youngblood has developed a membrane that can separate oil from water, offering promise for cleaning up oil spills. The technology lasts longer than conventional filters for separating oil from water and may have a variety of other applications, including water purification and industrial uses.

The technology, which is being licensed through the Purdue Research Foundation’s Office of Technology Commercialization, works by attracting water while beading oil — traits that are usually mutually exclusive. Youngblood said oil dispersed in water and then run through the filters results in a 98 percent separation.

Federal estimates say 35,000-60,000 barrels of oil, or 1.5 million to 2.5 million gallons, have been gushing daily into the Gulf daily since April 22 when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank two days after it exploded in flames.

Youngblood also is developing a new coating that changes its structure, depending on whether it’s in contact with oil or water, for preventing windshields from fogging up or accumulating oily deposits.

In his research, Youngblood uses a variety of tools to change the surfaces of plastics and other material surfaces by use of plastics in order to affect wetting, adhesion, biocompatibility, antimicrobicity and other factors.

The monthly Science on Tap program provides faculty from Purdue the opportunity to share their research activities in an informal setting, touching on subjects and providing presentations that are designed to appeal to a more general audience.

“Science on Tap has created a new venue to find out what experts at Purdue University are working on and how that impacts our lives and our community,” said event co-organizer Kate Stuart, a postdoctoral researcher in biomedical engineering at Purdue. “And no science background is needed to plug into this monthly event.”

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