Evaluation of polypropylene and poly (butylmethacrylate-co-hydroxyethylmethacrylate) nonwoven material as oil absorbent

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Polypropylene (PP) and poly(butylmethacrylate-co-hydroxyethylmethacrylate) (PBMA-co-HEMA) nonwoven materials as oil absorbents have been fabricated for the first time via melt blown method. As-prepared nonwovens were investigated in terms of mass per unit area, density, air permeability, contact angle, and morphology observations for fiber diameter distribution and single fiber surface by a field emission scanning electron microscope. The nonwovens are demonstrated as fast and efficient absorbents for various kinds of oils with oil absorbency up to seven to ten times their own weight. The nonwovens show excellent water repulsion but superoleophilic properties. The measured contact angles for water and toluene are more than 127° and ca. 0°, respectively. The addition of PBMA-co-HEMA makes the nonwoven surface more hydrophobic while conserving superoleophilicity. Compared with PP nonwoven, broad diameter distribution of the blend nonwoven is attributed to poor melt fluidity of PBMA-co-HEMA. In terms of single fiber, coarse surface and the presence of point-like convexities lead to the fibers being more readily wetted by oil. More interesting, oil–water separation and oil recovery can be easily carried out by filter and absorption–desorption process, the recovered materials contained hardly any oil droplet and could be reused for next cycles.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos.: 50673077 and 51103099). Our work was also supported by Handan Hengyong Protective & Clean Products Co., Ltd., Hebei Province, P.R. China.

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Correspondence to Changfa Xiao.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

The nonwoven as a filter, facilitating a simple separation to oil–water mixture. (MPG 31273 kb)

The video shows a dynamic evolution of water drop on as-prepared nonwoven surface. (MPG 38692 kb)

The video shows a rapid evolution of toluene drop on as-prepared nonwoven surface. (MPG 47252 kb)


(JPEG 61 kb)


The nonwoven as a filter, facilitating a simple separation to oil–water mixture. (MPG 31273 kb)


The video shows a dynamic evolution of water drop on as-prepared nonwoven surface. (MPG 38692 kb)


The video shows a rapid evolution of toluene drop on as-prepared nonwoven surface. (MPG 47252 kb)

High resolution image (TIFF 3188 kb)

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Zhao, J., Xiao, C. & Xu, N. Evaluation of polypropylene and poly (butylmethacrylate-co-hydroxyethylmethacrylate) nonwoven material as oil absorbent. Environ Sci Pollut Res 20, 4137–4145 (2013).

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  • Polypropylene
  • Melt blown nonwoven
  • Oil absorbency
  • Oil recovery
  • Oil–water separation
  • Oil spill