Carbon Aerogel from Winter Melon for Highly Efficient and Recyclable Oils and Organic Solvents Absorption

Direct conversion of biomass to carbon aerogel provides a promising approach to developing absorbent materials for spilled oils and organic solvents recovery. In this work, three-dimensional carbon aerogels were fabricated via a hydrothermal and post-pyrolysis process using winter melon as the only raw materials. The winter melon carbon aerogel (WCA) prepared shows a low density of 0.048 g/cm<sup>3</sup>, excellent hydrophobicity with a water contact angle of 135°, and selective absorption for organic solvents and oils. The absorption capacity of WCA for organic solvents and oils can be 16–50 times its own weight. Moreover, distillation can be employed to recover WCA and harvest the pollutants. Over five absorption–harvesting cycles, the absorption capacity of WCA to organic solvents and low boiling point oils can recover almost 100% of its starting capacity. With a combination of low-cost biomass as raw materials, green preparation process, low density, and excellent hydrophobicity, WCA as an absorber has great potential in application of spilled oil recovery and environmental protection.