Science Nanotube Sponge

Published on May 10th, 2012 | by James Johnson


Nanotube ‘Sponge’ Could Clean Up Oil Spills More Efficiently

Nanotube Sponge

A brand new carbon nanotube sponge that can soak up oil in water in record time has been developed at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The Carbon nanotubes consist of an atom-thick sheet of carbon that is rolled into cylinders. Scientists are impressed with the material because of its high strength, high conductivity and light weight material development. The material is also far easier to create than other nanotubes which have been hindered by the growth process of the nanotubes.

ORNL’s Bobby Sumpter tells Red Orbit:

“Any time you put a different atom inside the hexagonal carbon lattice, which is a chicken wire-like network, you disrupt that network because those atoms don’t necessarily want to be part of the chicken wire structure. Boron has a different number of valence electrons, which results in curvature changes that trigger a different type of growth.”

Researchers found that boron atoms encouraged the formation of so-called “elbow” junctions that helped nanotubes grow into a 3-D network in lab and simulation testing.

Sumpter says of that process:

“Instead of a forest of straight tubes, you create an interconnected, woven sponge-like material. Because it is interconnected, it becomes three-dimensionally strong, instead of only one-dimensionally strong along the tube axis.”

The material therefore attracts oil and repels water because it is primarily carbon. The material is so effective that it can absorb up to 100 times its weight in oil.

[via  Red Orbit]



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About the Author

James is a new media professional with more than half a decade worth of experience in the online writing space. He currently serves as the Associate Editor of and the Editor-in-Chief of He also serves as a resident writer for Splash Press Media. In his spare time James consults businesses regarding SEO and Content Development.

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