Published on May 10th, 2012 | by James Johnson1
Nanotube ‘Sponge’ Could Clean Up Oil Spills More Efficiently
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]