Sticky Stuff Stumps Steve
C&EN (Chemistry & Engineering News) has recently reported that a mysterious substance responsible for killing hundreds of birds in San Francisco Bay appears to be a polymerized plant-derived oil rather than one derived from petroleum. In the article we learn that: '…
Steve Rowland, an organic geochemistry professor at the University of Plymouth, in England, was one of the first scientists to offer assistance. His group had recently successfully identified polyisobutene as the culprit in a massive spill off the coast of the U.K. in 2013. Thousands of birds were killed during that disaster.
Polyisobutene’s physical characteristics share many similarities to the California contaminant—sticky, gummy, gluey—led many scientists to suspect it was the culprit.
But Rowland's lab compared their infrared spectra with those of the California samples, and was able to rule out polyisobutene. Rowland didn't stop there: He compared spectra from the California samples to those from a library of ocean contaminants that he's amassed over the years. None were a match. "We still could not identify it conclusively," Rowland says. "It's annoying." …'
It certainly is...