Scientists in China have developed an artificial sponge that can separate oil and water and can be used for treating water contaminated by industrial sewage, a media report said today. The porous material is made with nano-crystalline cellulose and graphene composite and has high absorption capacity. “It is 97 per cent effective in separating water and oil,” Liu Dongyan, a researcher with the Institute of Metal Research under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency. A paper on the research undertaken by the institute based in Shenyang, capital of north China’s Liaoning Province, was published in the latest issue of the international journal Advanced Materials Interfaces. Liu said that industrial sewage contains various oils and organic components that becomes ecologically hazardous once mixed with water. The new material provides a low-cost industrial sewage treatment solution, she added. Liu said that the base material of the polyurethane sponge is cost-effective. Only the small amount of graphene, in the coating, is expensive. However, with the increase in production of graphene in China, the price would gradually come down she added.