If you have been under the impression that oil always floats on water, you’re half-right. Chi Phan from Curtin University in Australia and his team have shown us that this is not always the case and it is indeed a discovery that could be useful for cleaning up oil spills. In a video, the researchers added a droplet of water to canola oil and it stayed on top of the oil as they added subsequent droplets of water, it make the surface too big and that’s when gravity overcomes the forces involved and causes the water to lose its support by the oil and sink.

According to Phan, experiments showed that droplets of water didn’t float on all types of oil and only 4 types of vegetable oils were able to hold up the droplets and for each variant, there were also a different maximum number of water droplets it could hold up. This floating ability of water droplets is reported to be able to help with oil spills. As Phan says, “oil-eating microbes often deployed to breakdown oil, like the recent Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, need nutrients in high concentration which cannot be done properly yet, but with water droplets, we could deploy both, microbes and enough nutrients on the oil surface which would speed up  the biodegradation process.

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