Brilliant Materials Insight: Human Hair Can be Used to Clean Up Oil Spills

Here's a perfect example of analyzing a material's properties, then exploiting them to solve a problem. In 1989 an Alabama man named Phil McCrory was watching footage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill on television. The sad footage showed an otter drenched in oil--and McCrory observed that the water immediately around the otter contained less oil, as it had been absorbed by the otter's fur.

This was noteworthy to McCrory, as he was a hairstylist. As he explained to NPR:

And I was thinking,...


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