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8th graders oil project looking for some Chemists to answer questions

Question asked by Tammy Ray on Sep 27, 2017
Latest reply on Oct 12, 2017 by Steven Cooke

Still looking for any responses... please...


I have a team of kids (8th graders) that are doing the First Lego League competition this year. As part of that they have to come up with a possible solution to a problem that relates to the human water cycle.  They need to contact experts and share their thoughts and get feedback of their solution.  I was hoping you could help them as experts in the problem and possible solution they decided to do.  We would greatly appreciate any feedback that you could give.  I've listed what the problem is they are trying to solve and their suggested solution below, and then some questions for you as experts.


Problem:  Oil spills in water (caused by various things - accidents, hurricanes, etc)


Their proposed solution:  Create an environmentally safe chemical that can be put in the oil, that if there is a leak, as soon as the oil comes in contact with water, the chemical causes the oil to solidify thus sealing the leak or at least slowing it down.  The solidified oil would be buoyant so that it could be easily skimmed out of the water.  The solidified oil could also be reprocessed back into usable oil.


Questions the kids have for you as an expert:

    Does such a chemical currently exist that can do this?

    If so, why is it not being used - any downside to using it?

    If not, is it possible to invent such a chemical?  Now or in the future?

    What kind of components could be used to do create such a chemical?


Hope this forum is ok with this type of research.

Thank you so much!