Dr. Paul Edmiston and students at the College of Wooster in Ohio have discovered a material which absorbs small organic molecules while repelling water.

The material, which they call "Osorb", is a nano-engineered glass that can absorb hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and solvents which are either dispersed or disolved in water.

The absorbed compounds can be separated from the glass with a heat or water treatment and the glass material itself can be regenerated over 100 times.

As well as its potential use in oil spills, the material could be used to reclaim waste water from oil and gas extraction, which is estimated to be over 3 billion litres a year.