Magazine article Science News

Spread Out: Organic Matter Scatters Carbon Nanotubes in Water

Magazine article Science News

Spread Out: Organic Matter Scatters Carbon Nanotubes in Water

Article excerpt

Although carbon nanotubes usually clump in water, they readily disperse when the water contains natural organic matter, researchers report. Their study provides a glimpse of how the nanotubes might behave if released into a waterway.

Carbon nanotubes are prized for their strength and electrical properties (SN: 6/14/03, p. 372), and their production and market continue to grow. Researchers have reported that in the laboratory, these nanoparticles are strongly repulsed by water and attracted to each other. But scant information exists about how the tubes would behave in the environment, notes Jae-Hong Kim, an environmental engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

Kim and his colleagues set out to see whether the decayed plant and animal material found in waterways would affect carbon nanotubes. The scientists used multiwalled nanotubes, each of which is a collection of concentric tubes.

The organic matter came from the Suwannee River in Georgia. The researchers used water that they collected from the river and a prepared powder that they purchased and diluted.

Team members added the carbon nanotubes to flasks containing either the river water or a solution of the powdered organic matter. They also added the nanotubes to two other flasks containing either distilled water or a surfactant solution that scientists routinely use to keep carbon nanotubes from clumping during experiments. The team shook all the flasks for an hour, let the contents settle, and then observed them for over a month. …

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