A new material that can separate oil from water

Oil spills at sea, on the land or in kitchens could one day easily be mopped up with a new multipurpose fabric that repels water and attracts oil. The material’s unique property was achieved by first adding a copper coating to the fabric, then growing semi-conducting nanostructures on the surface of the material. The nanostructures are like tiny rods that cover the surface of the fabric and attract and hold oil, so that water just runs off. Testing of the fabric has shown it is effective at cleaning up crude oil from both fresh and salt water, and separating organic solvents, ordinary olive and peanut oil from water. QUT Associate Professor Anthony O’Mullane collaborated with researchers from CSIRO and RMIT on the development of the fabric, and researchers are testing its ability to upscale production.

More information


Chief Investigators