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A theoretical and experimental study of oil wicking behavior via “green” superabsorbent


Properties of cellulose aerogels indicate their great potential in oil pollutant treatment, a domain that has received tremendous attention recently; however, there are only a small theoretical studies into their absorption mechanisms. Herein, we developed a dual-scale oil absorption model based on the Washburn capillary theory to investigate the oil absorption kinetics of aerogels. It was found that kapok/microfibrillated cellulose aerogels (KCAs) exhibit high oil absorption performance via a capillary wicking method that simulates oil removal by aerogels in polluted oceans. This theoretical model demonstrates that the oil absorption capacity is mainly derived from the continuous primary pores within the aerogel skeleton, while secondary pores introduced by chopped kapok could collect and conduct oil, leading to improved oil absorption rates of KCAs. The experimental results of the oil absorption coefficients confirm the accuracy of the developed dual-scale model. The study of this dual-scale model is significant in investigating the relationship between the pore structure and oil absorption of aerogels, which will provide valuable insights for the practical application of aerogels for oil removal in polluted oceans.

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The authors wish to acknowledge the National Natural Science Foundation of China [No. 51903034] and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities of China [Grant Numbers 2232019D3-12 and 2232019D3-15].

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Authors and Affiliations



HZ: Conceptualization, methodology, validation, investigation, and writing-original draft. GX: Review and editing. FW: Investigation and review. SS: review and editing. HS: Methodology, data curation, review, and editing. JW: Writing-review and editing and funding acquisition.

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Correspondence to Jilong Wang or Hua Shen.

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Zhang, H., Xu, G., Wang, F. et al. A theoretical and experimental study of oil wicking behavior via “green” superabsorbent. Cellulose 28, 10517–10529 (2021).

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  • Cellulose
  • Kapok fiber
  • Absorption coefficient
  • Oil absorption model
  • Dual-scale pores