Versatile fabrication of magnetic carbon fiber aerogel applied for bidirectional oil–water separation

Research paper by Yong Li, Xiaotao Zhu, Bo Ge, Xuehu Men, Peilong Li, Zhaozhu Zhang

Indexed on: 05 Jun '15Published on: 05 Jun '15Published in: Applied Physics A


Fabricating functional materials that can solve environmental problems resulting from oil or organic solvent pollution is highly desired. However, expensive materials or complicated procedures and unidirectional oil–water separation hamper their applications. Herein, a magnetic superhydrophobic carbon fiber aerogel with high absorption capacity was developed by one-step pyrolysis of Fe(NO3)3-coated cotton in an argon atmosphere. The obtained aerogel can selectively collect oils from oil-polluted region by a magnet bar owing to its magnetic properties and achieves fast oil–water separation for its superhydrophobicity and superoleophilicity. Furthermore, the aerogel performs recyclable oil absorption capacity even after ten cycles of oil–water separation and bears organic solvent immersion. Importantly, the obtained aerogel turns to superhydrophilic and underwater superoleophobic after thermal treatment, allowing it as a promising and efficient material for bidirectional oil–water separation and organic contaminants removal.