Rice nanosponges show promise for environmental cleanup
Researchers at Rice and Penn State universities have discovered an effective way to extract oil from water, with potential for cleaning up the environment.
The research has shown that adding boron to carbon while creating nanotubes turns the tubes into solid, reusable sponges that successfully absorb oil spills from water.
According to a press release, the sponges work due to the "kinks and elbows" that boron creates in the carbon nanotubes, which promotes the formation of covalent bonds. The sponge blocks are both superhydrophobic, meaning they repel water, and oleophilic, meaning they absorb oil.
Mauricio Terrones, one of the co-authors of the paper being published on this study, said in the press release, "Our goal was to find a way to make three-dimensional networks of these carbon nanotubes that would form a macroscale fabric, a spongy block of nanotubes that would be big and thick enough to use to clean up oil spills and to perform other tasks. We realized that the trick was adding boron, a chemical element next to Carbon on the periodic table, because boron helps to trigger the interconnections of the material."
This discovery holds promise for future large scale applications. Terrones added in the press release, "Oil-spill remediation and environmental cleanup are just the beginning of how useful these new nanotube materials could be."
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