FORGET "top cap" or "junk shot."

How about "seabed retread"?

That's what Northport native Alia Sabur, 21, a college grad at age 14 and youngest-ever professor at 18, calls her plan to stop the gushing BP oil well polluting the Gulf of Mexico.

The proposal: Insert a diversionary pipe into the damaged well, then hold it in place by inflating rubber tires fastened around it, creating a firm seal. Sabur went to Louisiana Thursday to discuss the idea with a BP executive and has talks scheduled next with company scientists, she said.

"They were extremely receptive," Sabur said by telephone Friday. "I was hoping for a positive response and what I got was what I had hoped for: that it was an interesting idea and it would definitely be looked into."


Sabur's idea is one of more than 40,000 submitted to BP since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20 and sank two days later, causing oil to leak from the sea floor a mile beneath the Gulf's surface. Most have come through a "suggestions box" on BP's website, but Sabur met with BP after her idea got media attention this week.

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Friday, the Coast Guard created a new system for accepting suggestions independent of BP's online system. They will be vetted by five federal agencies.

"It's just a better, more formal, more robust way of capturing and reviewing suggestions," said Petty Officer Zach Zubricki of the U.S. Coast Guard, spokesman for Unified Command Center responding to the spill.

"We are getting thousands and thousands of ideas from a variety of reporting sources, all the way from concerned citizens who just want to help anyway they can up to academia itself and the industry," Zubricki said.

Long Islanders have been among those brainstorming.

Ed Gudaitis, a retired mechanical engineer, suggests loading up barges with cement, then sinking them with a controlled explosion over the top of the well, sealing it off.

"This is not Einstein stuff," said Gudaitis, 68, of Long Beach, who plans to submit his idea. "It's time for brute force."

If the leak can't be stopped, Margaret Hunter, a Hofstra University professor of environmental science and engineering, suggests using whirling centrifuges to suck up the widening slick and lessen the disaster until relief wells can be drilled.

"You would still have a mix of oil and water but there would be less oil," Hunter said.

But each idea has flaws, said Stefan Mrozewski, senior staff engineer at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.

Sabur's plan doesn't appear to take into account a 6-inch drill pipe in the center of the damaged riser. And Mrozewski said it wasn't certain either Sabur's or Gudaitis' plan could create a firm enough seal to hold back the intense pressure of the oil blasting out of the seabed.

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Said Mrozewski: "This is extremely difficult stuff."



Alia Sabur bio


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Resume: PhD student in material science and engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia; graduated from Stony Brook University at age 14

Idea: Insert a 12-inch pipe hugged by rubber tires into the 21-inch damaged oil riser. Inflate the tires and create a firm seal. The smaller pipe diverts the oil to the surface or stops it from flowing at all.