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