Magnetic Soap Has Arrived

No, not magnetic bar soap for the shower, unfortunately (though how great would that be?!).  Instead, scientists at Bristol University in the U.K. have announced the invention of a soap compound that can be controlled predictably by magnetic fields.  The researchers created it by dissolving iron into a variety of salts to form hard metallic centers in each soap particle.  Thus, after introducing the soap into a body of water for cleaning purposes, scientists can use magnets to corral,  separate, and remove it from the system entirely.

The most immediate application for this technology is large-scale environmental cleanup.  After last year’s Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf, approximately 1.8 million gallons of industrial soap were used to disperse the oil.  Some advocacy groups worried that adding synthetic chemicals was only compounding the disaster by wreaking havoc on marine habitats.  Unlike a kitchen sink, the ocean can’t just be drained or rinsed when it gets too soapy.  The Bristol breakthrough, however, presents a potentially scaleable, eco-friendly solution to that problem.  It’s quite fitting too, given that soap relies on basic magnetism to separate oil and water in the first place.  Today’s news is a promising development for the future of commercial and household water treatment.

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