I have a team of kids (8th graders) that are doing the First Lego League competition this year. As part of that they have to come up with a possible solution to a problem that relates to the human water cycle. They need to contact experts and share their thoughts and get feedback of their solution. We would greatly appreciate any feedback. I've listed what the problem is they are trying to solve and their suggested solution below, and then some questions.
Problem: Oil spills in water (caused by various things - accidents, hurricanes, etc)
Their proposed solution: Create an environmentally safe chemical that can be put in the oil, that if there is a leak, as soon as the oil comes in contact with water, the chemical causes the oil to solidify thus sealing the leak or at least slowing it down. The solidified oil would be buoyant so that it could be easily skimmed out of the water. The solidified oil could also be reprocessed back into usable oil.
Questions the kids have:
Does such a chemical currently exist that can do this?
If so, why is it not being used - any downside to using it? If not, is it possible to invent such a chemical? Now or in the future? What kind of components could be used to do create such a chemical?
We really appreciate any response you can give.
Thank you so much!