By adding grooves to the surface of a common oil-skimming device, researchers recovered up to three times as much oil as they did with smooth-surfaced devices. The improvement could reduce the environmental and economical costs of oil spills.
The Exxon Valdez incident spewed nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989. Although spills of that magnitude occur infrequently, smaller-scale spills are common. According to Jeff Brown of the National Response Center in Washington, D.C., nearly 100 spills of at least 1,000 gallons of oil and more than 10,000 smaller spills have been reported annually in U.S. waters in recent years.