Ocean oil spills are an inherent risk of extracting oil from the seafloor and transporting it around the world. Yet ocean oil mining occurs every day; as consistently as the 5 p.m. traffic jams comprising vehicles the oil will inevitably fuel.
If there is a spill, clearing the oil from water is no easy task. While the clean-up takes place, usually over weeks, months or sometimes not at all, the oil has time to cause decades of irreversible damage.
And so, when a scientist stands up and suggests pouring more oil, intentionally, into the ocean to remedy the initial spill – it is understandably met with some questions.
Luckily, synthetic chemist and researcher Associate Professor Justin Chalker likes questions. Questions set you on a hunt for answers, he says. He believes chemists are in a unique position to solve many of the biggest problems facing the environment. And it is exactly these problems his team of researchers are focused on.
He is looking for answers in the unknown in the truest sense. As a researcher in synthetic chemistry his work is to create new molecules and materials; to bring new matter into existence and then put it to use.