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updated 10/24/2011 4:50:24 PM ET 2011-10-24T20:50:24

The University of Rhode Island announced on Monday that it will be joining a consortium of schools participating in a $10.4 million study to develop new ways to clean up oil spills.

The grant is a part of a consortium led by Tulane University of 42 scientists from 21 universities announced last month studying oil spill dispersants.

The news comes on the heels of controversy last year surrounding the use of chemical dispersants to clean up the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. [Read: Top 10 Worst Oil Spills]

The scientists at URI will receive $560,000 to study the effectiveness of eco-friendly nanoparticles instead of chemical dispersants as a means of stabilizing oil droplets in seawater.

"There is naturally-occurring bacteria that grows on oil and eats it as food," URI associate professor of chemical engineering Geoff Bothun told TechNewsDaily. "We want to design a strategy to improve the rate in which these micro-organisms degrade the oil to move along the dispersant process."

The university also said that that while their research is focused on oil spills, it can also serve as a platform for developing other applications, including novel materials for batteries and fuel cells and novel drug delivery vehicles.

Funding was provided by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, which was set up by oil company BP to administer a $500 million fund it established for independent research over 10 years to study the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and how to better deal with future spills.

Reach TechNewsDaily senior writer Samantha Murphy at smurphy@techmedianetwork.com. Follow her on Twitter @SamMurphy_TMN

© 2012 TechNewsDaily

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