Nanomaterials cleanup: Just add oil

Nanomaterials cleanup: Just add oil

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Science and technology depend heavily on nanomaterials for the production of goods, some of which we use daily. Mostly all of these nanomaterials eventually end up being discarded whether through recycling or waste. Some materials that do not get recycled, get neglectfully tossed out, littering our environment and ecosystem. It would only make sense to really figure out what effects these materials have on our surroundings and if there is a way to filter them out of the most vulnerable of places, the ocean.

Oil and water are two liquids that are immiscible, meaning they will not mix together. What makes these liquids immiscible is the force of attraction between the liquid molecules. If the force is greater in one liquid than the force of attraction between the two different liquids, then it separates the two liquids out. American researchers are taking this scientific truth and applying it to massive oceanic clean up.

The idea seems a little too simple right? Just add some water and shake but in smaller tests they found that the oil, water, shake method removes nearly 100 percent of nanomaterials from water. Dongyan Zhang, a research professor of physics at Michigan Tech, who was also the team leader, experimented on carbon nanotubes, graphene, boron nitride nanotubes, boron nitride nanosheets and zinc oxide nanowires. These materials are what many things from carbon fiber golf clubs to sunscreen are composed of. Zhang explains,

“These materials are very, very tiny, and that means if you try to remove them and clean them out of contaminated water, that it’s quite difficult,” also adding that standard techniques like filter paper or meshes are not as effective.

Source and images: Michigan Tech News