Can Glass Clean-up The Gulf Oil Spill? InsulSorb® Can!


The BP oil spill has become a focal point for most Americans, including, of course, our children. My daughter’s fifth grade teacher, who is very focused on environmental issues, read the blog we posted about our product InsulSorb and our efforts to bring the product to the Gulf to help with the clean-up efforts.  The teacher then contacted me and asked if I would visit the class to demonstrate the benefits of InsulSorb as a solution to cleaning up the Gulf. 

I viewed this as a great opportunity to use a current crisis taking place to show the students a product that has been developed right here, in their community, that can assist in protecting the fragile marine environment and shorelines impacted by the oil.

First, we discussed insulation and its value in the home and other buildings as the most practical way to save energy.  Then I showed them how fiberglass insulation is made from sand and glass that is melted and formed into glass fibers and finally, the various types of insulation, including fiberglass batts, blown insulation, and spray foam insulation.

For my demonstration, I took some InsulSafe, our blown insulation product, and placed it in a beaker of water and it sank.  Next, I created an oil slick on the water and added the InsulSafe.  While it did absorb the oil, it also absorbed water and sank. 

“What would we need to do to make the insulation work?” I asked the class. After some prompting, they replied, “it needs to float.”

I explained that I challenged our scientists in our Blue Bell, Pennsylvania technical center to develop a way to make ‘glass’ float. Through a series of experiments, they developed a special, proprietary process that enabled the insulation to float.  This became InsulSorb.

We continued the experiment by placing InsulSorb in a beaker of water, and indeed, it floated.  I added oil to the water and placed the InsulSorb on top of the oil. In a short time, the InsulSorb had absorbed all the oil, which could then be easily removed, leaving behind clean water.

So, how would InsulSorb be used in the Gulf? The product can be formed into booms to be used to both contain and soak up the oil or it can be blown on top of the oil slicks and scooped up from boats. It is possible to reclaim the oil by squeezing it out of the fiber, but it will likely be more expedient to incinerate the used product.  This product will absorb 30 times its weight of oil.

The students – future scientists, environmentalists, politicians and consumers – asked some insightful questions.

We continue to work with the decision-makers in the Gulf Coast to have them utilize our product as one, viable, solution to the clean-up effort.


  1. Mark’s presentation to my fifth grade class this past June was interesting, informative, and fun! I truly appreciated the fact that he took the time to prepare a “hands-on,” visually exciting, and age appropriate lesson for ten and eleven year old children. They loved being able to actually see InsulSorb in action! They were very impressed by it’s effective ability to absorb the oil.
    I like to think that today’s kids are invested in the health and well being of their environment. In our elementary school, my colleagues and I continually teach our students to be caretakers of their planet. It’s not a stretch to say that our students are fairly knowledgeable about their environment and it’s issues. Mark’s presentation was extremely timely and valuable!
    It is encouraging to learn that the scientists at CertainTeed are channeling so much of their knowledge and energies into helping to stop the negative effects of the BP oil spill.
    On behalf of my students and myself, I’d like to thank Mark for teaching us about InsulSorb, for giving us hope that something can and is being done to help in the Gulf, and for showing young kids that adults, like those at CertainTeed, are invested in caring for our planet! I’d also like to thank his very capable assistant, his daughter, (who is a Planet Keeper and an exemplary student) everyday!
    Sue Mandia
    5th Grade Teacher

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