A three-dimensional porous metal foam with selective-wettability for oil–water separation

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The development of selective-wettability surfaces of porous materials is important for oil spill cleanup. A new type of oil–water separation material has been prepared through a three-dimensional (3-D) extension of a biologically inspired two-dimensional (2-D) material. In this, a simple solution-immersion method is used to construct a super-oleophilic and super-hydrophobic surface on the metallic skeleton of a copper foam, onto which a nanosheet structure is formed that differs greatly from previous nanoscale needle-based materials. This 3-D copper foam is demonstrated to be capable of supporting a maximum height of accumulated water of 5.5 cm prior to oil wetting and 1.5 cm after oil wetting. Furthermore, the foam is capable of efficient oil–water separation, despite losing its super-hydrophobicity during the process. This has given important new insight into the mechanism of separation, in that super-oleophilicity is clearly important to achieving good separation. The selective-wettability of this porous metal foam is expected to extend the range of metal-based oil–water separation materials from 2D metal meshes to more complex 3-D metal structures.

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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 90916021, 51435008) and funded by the Jiangsu Innovation Program for Graduate Education (CXLX12_0141).

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Correspondence to Zhendong Dai.

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Supplementary material 1 (MP4 27112 kb)

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Supplementary material 3 (MP4 39878 kb)

Supplementary material 4 (MP4 23089 kb)

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Zhang, J., Ji, K., Chen, J. et al. A three-dimensional porous metal foam with selective-wettability for oil–water separation. J Mater Sci 50, 5371–5377 (2015) doi:10.1007/s10853-015-9057-2

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