Research

Plugging an Oil Leak

Recent research indicates that adding cornstarch to drilling mud increases the likelihood that a “top-kill” procedure will plug a leaking oil well. Adding cornstarch to water (or mud) turns it into a non-Newtonian fluid with viscoelastic properties that prevent the instabilities that lead to turbulent breakup. On the left, an underwater photo of the Deepwater Horizons leak; in the center, colored water breaks into turbulence when descending into oil; on the right, water with cornstarch maintains its coherence when pumped downward into the oil. # (PDF of research paper)

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