In the event of a maritime oil spill, good advice is hard to come by. While traditional binding agents can absorb crude oil on the surface, they are expensive and have a limited effect. Paul Kunisch and Thomas Derra are on the hunt for better sorbents. They impregnated pulp with ASA, an industrial sizing agent that resembles well-known oil binding agents in its structure. Its traditional use is to make paper water-repellent. The young researchers’ experiments were successful: Their ASA-impregnated sawdust, cellulose fibre granules and non-woven fabrics are cost-efficient and even have a better sorption capacity than commercially available agents. Chromatographic measurements demonstrated that the new sorbents remove not only crude oil, but also hydrocarbons from deeper water layers.