While scientists are still sweating over a viable solution for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh has developed an impressive method to separate oil from water. Di Gao used a cotton cloth coated in a chemical polymer as a filter, which is an oil repellent as well as hydrophilic (water attracting), which allows it to block oil and let water pass through. The chemical is applied to a plain old cotton cloth, which is then dried in an oven or in open air. For using it to clear the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Gao believes that large, trough-shaped filters that can be dragged through the water to contain surface oil, should work. He has even submitted his idea to the officials working on the oil rig.
Watch this video where Gao demonstrates his system: