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Introduction

This project uses elaborate techniques to purify contaminated areas in different environments after oil spills. Rather than discarding of the human hair it can be used to help cleanse the effected area, adsorb the oil, then utilized as an effective fuel derivation. The oil adsorption of potential wasted hair fibers could produce valuable solutions for our prevalent and modern society. We have investigated the ability of the human hair to adsorb a variety of potentially hazardous oils, including motor oils, bilge oils and crude oils that have the possibility of being spilled in terrestrial or aquatic environments. Current increased demand for refined crude oil products such as heating oils, lubricant oils, gasoline and jet fuels and other such related products necessitated transportation of rushing products over greater distances. When such transportation occurs in aquatic environments, any serious accident resulting in spills. As result in disastrous effects on biotic components (such as birds, aquatic mammals, and fish and aquatic micro plants in the oceans or larger water bodies). We have tried different hair colours and feel that overall black gave the best results for adsorbing the most oil. We are also using wood pellets as fuel that can help reduce global warming which has also been proven to provide the cleanest burn of any solid fuel.

Unusual weather also affects the practicality of oil spills, such as the one recently in Nova Scotia (excessive flooding) as result of broken oil tank lines and leakage of their tanks.

Thousands of tonnes of human hair is cut everyday and thrown into landfills as a waste product, or discarded elsewhere with no direct benefit. Hair is not an easily degradable substance; there are instances of hair being found that is thousands of years old (i.e. Egyptian mummies). Our project looked at the possibility of finding a use for waste hair. We thought that the waste hair could be used to clean up oil spills and that the oil could be recovered or converted into pellets as a source of heating fuel.

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Project Overview

This project organized discarded hair into groupings by colour. We measured the physical properties of the hairs, by colour group. The oil adsorption properties of different hair colours were measured. We built fuel pellets from the oil soaked hair and compared the thermal properties to wood pellets that are sold commercially.

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Purpose

The principle cause of our project was to eliminate the horrendous out come of oil spills. Oil spills are a know reality of life which occurs much to often. We believe that they cannot be prevented but if they do happen than there will now be a better-improved and cost efficient way to save the environment before total destruction. Our research investigated the adsorption of human hair in variety of potentially dangerous oils such as binge oils, motor oils and crude oils that may carry the possibility of being spilled in terrestrial and aquatic environments. Our project deals with five major series of experiments, which focus on helping clean up our environment. One of our main focuses was to evaluate the human hair to determine its adsorbance properties of numerous oils that may be discharged. Our next main focus was to create a new and improved, cost effective and very friendly, product (made with usually wasted hair and wasted wrappers from pantyhose) for possible commercial application in terrestrial and aquatic oil spills. The third focus deals with effectively evaluate the ability of the newly created product to reclaim a portion of the spilled oil for the re-use of the oil. Our last focus was to create a new fuel alternate from the oil adsorbed hair created as a product from the wasted oil, human hair and sawdust.

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Apparatus

  1. Beakers
  2. Ice cube trays
  3. Sandwich containers
  4. Erlenmeyer’s Flasks
  5. Scoopula
  6. Timers
  7. Scales
  8. Ziploc Bags
  9. Funnel
  10. Ring Stand
  11. Mortar & Pestle
  12. Bomb Calorimeter
  13. Florence Flask
  14. Buret Clamp
  15. Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)
  16. Optical Microscope

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Methods

Method of Establishing Hair Categories and Properties

We gave sealable plastic bags to many hair salons and asked them to collect hair samples and for them to keep the hairs separated by colour, and established three categories: black, brown, and blond. We then measured the hair diameters of the colour groups using a microscope.





Method of Testing Basic Adsorption Properties of Hairs by Colour

We made mesh pouches from nylon pantyhose by cutting out a standard sized piece then hot gluing all but one edge closed. Then we placed a measured amount of hair into each pouch. Next we put each pouch onto a film of 10 weight, non-detergent oil for the same amount of time, we proceeded to then accurately measure using an electronic balance the mass of the oil uptake by the pouch and the hair. The image to the right displays a pouch.

Method of Testing Adsorption Properties Using Different Mesh Pouches

Using black hair only, and following the same process described above for measuring basic oil adsorption, we compared oil uptake using mesh pouches made from pure nylon, with those made from a nylon and Lycra blend.

Method of Testing Adsorption Properties of Different Oil Types

Using black hair only and the same methodology as described for measuring basic adsorption, we measured oil uptake for 10 weight non-detergent oil, heating oil, and crude oil.







Method of Testing Oil Adsorption Properties in a Water Oil Mixture

City water from Halifax, salt water from the Bay of Fundy, and distilled water were mixed with 10 weight non-detergent oil in the ratios of 40 ml to 80 ml and 80 ml to 40 ml, oil to water. Using black hair only, and following the same procedure as described above for measuring basic oil adsorption, we compared oil uptake and water uptake using nylon mesh pouches with the standard hair fill.

Method of Testing Oil Adsorption Properties in Top Soil

Standardized samples of topsoil were prepared. To these was added 10 weight non-detergent oil in the range of 12 to 72 ml, in 10 ml increments. The oil was allowed to penetrate the soil for a standard time period. Standardized nylon pouches of black hair were buried in the soil for ten minutes; pouch and hair oil uptake was measured.

Method of Oil Reclamation

The black hair samples soaked with 10 weight non-detergent oil were measured to establish the oil to hair ratio and were then wrung with physical pressure to squeeze the oil out.

Method of Making and Testing Hair Sawdust Fuel Pellets

Hair samples were prepared using the black hair from which the oil had been mechanically removed. Oily hair and sawdust were mixed in standard ratios. Measured amounts were placed into a hydraulic press, and pellets made. The energy output of the hair sawdust pellets was compared to commercial wood pellets in an oxygen bomb calorimeter.

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Observations





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Findings for Hair Properties: We found that the black was the greatest diameter, followed by the blond, then the brown.

Findings for Basic Hair Adsorption: The black hair had the best adsorption properties, followed by the blond, then the brown. We observed that this followed the same pattern as for hair diameter.

Findings for Adsorption Properties Using Different Mesh Pouches: The oil uptake for hair in the blended nylon Lycra pouches was greater than in the straight nylon pouches. The blended nylon Lycra pouches allowed the hair to adsorb more oil while the poach itself absorbed less.

Findings for Adsorption Properties of Different Oil Types: The uptake for heating oil was greatest, followed by crude, then 10 weight no detergent motor oil.

Findings for Oil Adsorption Properties in a Water Oil Mixture: For Bay of Fundy water, the greater the amount of oil in proportion to water, the greater the oil uptake and the lower the water uptake. Distilled water, however worked best in a ratio that contained more oil then water.

Findings on Oil Adsorption Properties in Top Soil: Generally, oil adsorption by the hair was poor, with a high of 1.5 % and a low of 0.4%.

Findings on Oil Reclamation: Greater than 50% of the oil could be recovered.

Findings on Testing Hair Sawdust Fuel Pellets: The hair sawdust pellets consistently produced more energy per unit of mass than the commercial wood pellets.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOGRAPHS OF OUR EXPERIMENT.

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Analysis and Applications

Oil is the western world’s primary fuel source and is shipped to Canada and the United States from oil rich countries like Saudi Arabia, Ivory Coast and Venezuela. Demands are increasing for refined crude oil products such as heating oil, lubricant oils, and gasoline. Because sources for oil are being depleted steadily, it has to be shipped over greater distances creating a greater risk of oil spills into aquatic or terrestrial environments.

When such accidents occur in aquatic environments any spill such as the Exxon Valdez (that dumped 38 800 metric tones of oil into the ocean off Alaska in march of 1989) can result in disastrous effects on biotic inhabitants (such as birds, fish, aquatic mammals, fish and aquatic micro plants) as well as the abiotic components of the spill area.

Unusual weather patterns, like those recently experienced in Nova Scotia can cause excessive flooding, which can result in overturned oil tanks, spilling their content into soil and even into underground water sources. Even small spills like those that occur everyday at garages and small gas spills that happen from overfilling motors in boats can have an impact of the ecosystems they occur in.

Thousands of tonnes of human hair is cut everyday and thrown into landfills as a waste product or discarded elsewhere with no use. Hair is not a degradable substance; as there are cases of hair being found that is thousands of years old (i.e. Egyptian mummies).

This project uses different techniques to clean contaminated areas after oil spills in different environments. Instead of discarding human hair it can be used to help cleanse the affected area, adsorb the oil and then be utilized as an effective fuel derivation. The oil adsorption of potentially wasted hair fibers could produce valuable solutions for our wanton society. We have investigated the ability of human hair to adsorb a variety of potentially hazardous oils that have the possibility of being spilled in terrestrial or aquatic environments. These oils included motor oils, heating oils and crude oils. We established the absorbency properties of brunette, blond and black hair pigments and measured the ability of the hairs to capture the oil in affected areas. We have also determined the best size to make our pantyhose pouches to put the hair in so we can contain the hair in one area. We investigated the many possible uses of the oil adsorbed hair and untainted oil and the ability of the oil to be reclaimed from the pantyhose and from the hair. We determined the best hair type for adsorption and the amount of hair to place in what type of pantyhose by determining the best ratio of oil to water solution to adsorb to its greatest ability. Using this we gained the knowledge and feasibility of creating pellets from oil soaked hair and sawdust. This generates an alternative fuel source, which resulted in burning the pellet in wood burning pellet stoves.

We have divided our project into four major experiments that resulted in major successes. The first most important experiments were mainly focused on testing the hair we had acquired from hair stylists to determine the hair colour that adsorbed the most SAE 10W oil. Before we started our experiments, we hypothesized that the hair colour with the largest surface area would adsorb the most oil. We concluded that black was the most adsorbent hair colour due to its large diameter making it soak up more oil. Next we tried adsorbing the hair and oil also in different temperatures to see if there was a difference in adsorption. We believe that most oils are best adsorbed in tepid water temperatures between 5 degrees C – 20 degrees C. Blond was the second best adsorbing colour with brown as the least adsorbent. After finding our best hair colour we varied the pantyhose types, using pure nylon, lycra and silk pantyhose to see which type was the least absorbent. 14 percent Lycra mesh with 86 percent nylon pantyhose are the best because they are a lighter weight and do not absorb much of the oils. The oil can be reclaimed by squeezing out the pantyhose on average more then fifty percent of the oil can be reclaimed. The goal of these experiments was to observe the different amounts of oil absorbed by the pantyhose and to see what effect the material of the pouch had on the hairs ability to adsorb the oil. Then we tested different water sources. We added various oil samples to water from the Bay of Fundy and most of the oil was adsorbed by the hair in the pantyhose pouches. We have also had positive results from distilled water, lake water and tap water. Series two in our experiments dealt with testing oil adsorption in terrestrial environments. The tests for adsorbing oils in different soils were inconclusive.

Our last major experiments involved making a pellet-like fuel composed of compressed waste hair adsorbed in oil then mixed with sawdust. This could be used as a supplement to existing fuels or a replacement fuel. This oil saturated hair pellet could be produced to make a cost effective fuel source rather than wasting human hair and oils. We visited with Cathy Kennedy, a Ph. D student, who studies heat capacity at Dalhousie, who helped us in determining the heat given off from a regular wood pellet and our special made pellets from hair and sawdust. In testing we found that our pellet gave off 23.3865 Kilojoules/gram as opposed to 21.8075 Kilojoules/gram, which the average wood pellet gives off. This was an important discovery for our project due to the increased heat given off by our pellets.

We did extensive research on human hair anatomy and chemistry and found the best group of hair required to carry out our studies. We also learned about the properties of hair and its three shafts. The Cuticle, which consists of overlapping cells arranged like shingles. The hair’s Cortex, which consists of the bulk of the hair and the cells that keratinize gradually. The innermost shaft is called the Medulla, which is very difficult to examine. We believe that the oil is adsorbed into to the cortex of the hair, contrary to common belief that the oil is only adsorbed. We also did research on techniques of cleaning up oil spills. They use ineffective methods that are successful in cleaning up spills but costly and there is no use for the bi-product of the clean up. One method that is used to clean up oil spills is high pressure, hot water washing of the effected area, which washes away the sediments and nutrients that aid in the recovery of the ecosystem. Another method uses the technology of bioremediation, which uses micro-organisms to break down the hydrocarbons into less harmful compounds. This technique is ineffective and extremely expensive. Our project deals with three aspects the others do not:

  1. Using waste products (hair/ sawdust)
  2. Recovering oil from oil spills
  3. Creating a new product (fuel pellets)

Our project resulted in a triple win-win situation of the elimination of the waste hair, cleansing environmental areas of spilled oil with human hair and producing a fuel pellet from the recovered materials. Our project turned out to be a success for the environment and for the scientific elimination of hazardous and expensive oil spills that are devastating to our environment. This method of cleaning up oil spills is a more efficient and a less costly way to protect our environment. An added benefit of our project has been the discovery of a fuel pellet, which generates more heat than the standard fuel pellet on the market today.

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Conclusion

According to our results, we have found a new way of dealing with oil spills in our environment.

Our project resulted in a triple win-win situation of the elimination of the waste hair, cleansing environmental areas of spilled oil with human hair and producing a fuel pellet from the recovered materials. Our project turned out to be a success for the environment and for the scientific elimination of hazardous and expensive oil spills that are devastating to our environment. This method of cleaning up oil spills is a more efficient and a less costly way to protect our environment. An added benefit of our project has been the discovery of a fuel pellet, which generates more heat than the standard fuel pellet on the market today.

MAJOR CONCLUSIONS

Waste hair is a good material for adsorbing spilled oil that comes into direct contact with it. Approximately 50% of the adsorbed oil can be recovered from the oil soaked hair by pressing it. Fuel pellets made from the oil soaked hair produce more heat than commercially produced wood pellets. Our hair filled pouches were not good at adsorbing oil spilled into topsoil.

FINAL CONCLUSION

Waste hair is an effective adsorption medium for oil spills in a marine or fresh water environment and could be used for industrial spills where the oil is not able to drain into the topsoil.

Compared to existing methods, our oil recovery process is low cost, effective, and user friendly. It uses waste products as compared to new ones and is able to recover a significant amount of spilled oil for reuse. Remaining oil soaked hair can be made into an excellent alternative fuel source instead of being discarded.

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Acknowledgements

Over the long course of our project many have helped us. This project would not have been possible without the help of a lot of great people. We have had a great experience and cannot believe it all came together. First of all we would like to thank each other. We have put up with each other and dealt with all of the problems along the way. This has been a great experience and a laugh. Next we would like to thank Mr. DeLaLis for pushing us to do our best and to never give up. This meant a lot even if we did not always show it, thanks. Also we would like to thank our mentors, Cathy Kennedy, Andy George and Mort Fels. They have helped us by providing support and their knowledge in doing this project. We would also like to thank our over-seas helper. Chris Eley from Profactus Ltd. in London, England who helped us out with our new fuel source. Thanks to all the Hair Salons who collected hair for us. To our family, Susan, John and David, they have supported both Sarah and Amber in times of need and always believed in us. We would also like to thank everyone else we failed to mention. Everyone’s help was very appreciated and we are grateful for this experience. Thank You.

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