You are probably aware of the huge oil spill in Santa Barbara this week and the harm it does to the natural habitat. A 24-year-old Sri Lankan post-graduate Jasmin Athas at the University of Maryland has discovered an agent which will clear oil spills in the sea without damaging the aquatic environment.
Athas, a Chemistry major working under the supervision of Professor Srinivasa Raghavanand has discovered a mixture of two food-grade molecules, Lecithin and Tween 80 that can be blended in a 60:40 ratio to create smaller droplets of oil. Lecithin is found in soya beans and is used in making chocolates, and Tween 80 is used to emulsify ice cream. Who would think chocolate ice-cream would clean a oil spill.
Jasmin was drawn into oil spill research after it was found that the chemicals used in tackling oil spills, like Corexit 9500A, were themselves highly toxic.