There is a race to clean up the oil spills. So many different research groups are covering this. And the video pretty much explains it all. These researchers from the University of Michigan show that an ordinary polymer and a nanoparticle called fluoroPOSS can help to separate oil. They make a coated filter and then dipped it into the water mixed with oil. What happens is some kind of magic. The nanoparticles (think like putting oil into your teflon pan it is a similar material) have a low surface energy causing the oil droplets to strongly attach to eachother. The oil droplets for beads on the surface of the filter (which was seen as strange). The opposite happens to the water. The capillary action governed by the surface tension is different so oil beads up and the water is washed away. The best part of the process is that it happens with gravity (so no special machines) and can reuse the material for 100 hours before getting clogged..
How did the real life tests pan out? The group has a 99.9 percent efficiency!