California inventor patents rotating drum to clean up oil spills

Published 17 January 2007

Unlike traditional methods, which often rely on a flat pallete to collect oil, drum uses conventric grooves and surface tension to quickly lift and remove pollution; government scientists say system is twice as effective as others;

One good way to keep up with homeland security technology — in fact, a good way to get ahead of the competition — is to check in occassionaly with the U.S. Patent Office. Although major companies try to keep their inventions under wraps before ready for commercial roll-out, tinkerers and those employed by the government are rarely so discrete, and their filings often offer both a trove of data and a working road-map to the fruitful mind of the inventor. It is in this spirit that we report today about an interesting method of cleaning up oil spills.

As reported on the New Scientist Invention Blog, an inventor working for the U.S. Mineral Management Service — has anyone else ever heard of this office? — has developed an aluminum-covered drum that uses a special array of grooves to pick up pollution as it rolls over the surface of an oil slick. As the drum rotates, concentric ring grooves take advantage of surface tension to attract and store the oil. A good idea, but then how is the sticky oil removed? The answer is fixed a scraper that matches the grooved shape of the surface exactly. Tests carried out at the Ohmsett National Oil Spill Response Test Facility in New Jersey have already shown this method twice as effective as other established methods.

-read more in this New Scientist report