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Magnetic soap may help clean up oil spills

Chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie has just reported details of a soap that responds to magnetism. An international team has been working on the new soap, which when dissolves can be removed using a magnetic field. With further development the product could find extensive use in applications such as the cleaning up of oil spills.

The soap contains iron atoms, which are easily removed by magnetism. This means that anything dissolved by the soap will also have these iron particles attached. In essence the scientists have found a way to add the iron atoms into the molecules so that the soap droplets formed were attracted to a magnet.

Julian Eastoe, the co-author of the publication from the University of Bristol spoke to BBC News. He said:

"If you'd have said about 10 years ago to a chemist: 'Let's have some soap that responds to magnets', they'd have looked at you with a very blank face,"

"We were interested to see, if you went back to the chemical drawing board with the tool-kit of modern synthetic chemistry, if you one."

Research into the soap is still at the laboratory phase, but now the principle has been uncovered huge steps in the progress of the material are expected.

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