The material can be used in this way like a sponge to quickly clean up marine oil spills before the oil reaches the shoreline and mixes with or poisons sand, vegetation, and animal life.

Credits: Pexels; Author: @djpetty2;

The special material - called CNF-SP aerogel - combines a biodegradable cellulose-based material with a substance called spiropyran.

A light-sensitive material, siropyran has a unique "switchable" property that allows the aerogel to go from being oil-sorbent and oil-repellent, just like a kitchen sponge that can be used to soak up and squeeze out water.