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March 1st, 2011
Encapsulated metal nanoparticles can be extracted from carbon nanotubes through reverse capillary action.
It helps plants to transport water from their roots to their leaves. It is the reason why a sponge can be used for cleaning. It allows for the separation of different substances by chromatographic techniques like thin layer chromatography. Capillarity is the fundament of many biological and physical processes. However, this phenomenon is relevant not only on the macroscopic scale; with an increasing interest in nanofluidic devices, the effects of capillarity on the nanoscale have become an important topic, too. Possible applications of nanofluidic devices include promising areas like the separation of biomolecules, single-molecule analysis, or drug-delivery systems, and it is crucial to understand if the balance of capillary forces on the nanoscale resembles the one in the bulk material. Kirsten Edgar et al. from Wellington, New Zealand, now demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to withdraw an encapsulated metal particle from a multi-walled carbon nanotube via reverse capillary action, a fact that could make carbon nanotubes suitable for the use as pipettes.
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