The separation of oil and water is a worldwide challenge due to the ever-increasing amount of oily industrial wastewater and polluted oceanic waters, as well as the increasing frequency of oil spill accidents.

As the leader of advanced fibrous materials, electrospun nanofibers combine the properties of tunable wettability, large surface area, high porosity, good connectivity, fine flexibility, and ease of scalable synthesis from various materials (polymer, ceramic, carbon, etc.), and they hold great potential for many emerging environmental applications, including the separation of oily wastewater.

In this review, the recent progress in the design and fabrication of electrospun nanofibrous materials with tunable surface wettability for oil/water separation applications is summarized and highlighted.

This review covers the research and development starting from the design concepts and the synthesis of nanofibrous sorbents, nanofibrous membranes, and nanofibrous aerogels for effective oil/water separation. The review concludes with a brief forecast of challenges and future directions in this rapidly expanding field.

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DOI: 10.1016/j.mattod.2015.11.010