Hairdresser cleans up with Nasa
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  • Hairdresser cleans up with Nasa

  • Hairdresser cleans up with Nasa

    A hairdresser has persuaded the American space agency Nasa to research and develop his invention for mopping up oil – that effectively consists of human hair parceled up in nylon tights.

    Observing that hair is good at attracting oil and grease, Phillip McCrory, of Madison, Alabama, has turned the daily cuttings from his salon floor into filters that can be used for soaking up oil spills. Nasa confirmed last week that the low-tech system has been successful in preliminary trials and is going to be tested further.

    McCrory watched the 1989 oil spill in Prince William Sound in Alaska: "I saw an otter being rescued whose fur was saturated with oil. I thought, if animal fur can trap and hold spilled oil, why can't human hair?"

    At home, he stuffed five pounds of hair from his salon into a pair of his wife's tights, knotting the ends together to produce a ring. He filled his son's paddling pool with water and oil and removed every drop of the oil using his new invention.

    Hair does not absorb the oil but instead gathers it in layers on its surface - a process known as adsorption. Because of this the oil can be squeezed out afterwards.

    Nasa said: "Present oil clean-up methods cost about $10 to recover a gallon of oil. McCrory's system may cost as little as $2 per gallon.

    It sounds much like an invention several years ago based on stuffing straw into nets. It was apparently very effective at trapping oil. The straw would hold on to the oil by adsorption and capillary action. Given the expense of collecting enough hair to use in oil cleaning projects, I would have thought using straw would be much cheaper?

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