Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Nanosponges soak up oil again and again: Rice, Penn State nanotube blocks show promise for environmental cleanup, among many uses

The superhydrophobic carbon nanotube sponge shows a remarkable ability to soak up oil from water. Researchers found that adding boron to the growth process creates covalent bonds in the nanotubes, making dense networks with robust qualities. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)
The superhydrophobic carbon nanotube sponge shows a remarkable ability to soak up oil from water. Researchers found that adding boron to the growth process creates covalent bonds in the nanotubes, making dense networks with robust qualities.

(Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Abstract:
Researchers at Rice University and Penn State University have discovered that adding a dash of boron to carbon while creating nanotubes turns them into solid, spongy, reusable blocks that have an astounding ability to absorb oil spilled in water.

Nanosponges soak up oil again and again: Rice, Penn State nanotube blocks show promise for environmental cleanup, among many uses

Houston, TX | Posted on April 16th, 2012

That's one of a range of potential innovations for the material created in a single step. The team found for the first time that boron puts kinks and elbows into the nanotubes as they grow and promotes the formation of covalent bonds, which give the sponges their robust qualities.

The researchers, who collaborated with peers in labs around the nation and in Spain, Belgium and Japan, revealed their discovery in Nature's online open-access journal Scientific Reports.

Lead author Daniel Hashim, a graduate student in the Rice lab of materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan, said the blocks are both superhydrophobic (they hate water, so they float really well) and oleophilic (they love oil). The nanosponges, which are more than 99 percent air, also conduct electricity and can easily be manipulated with magnets.

To demonstrate, Hashim dropped the sponge into a dish of water with used motor oil floating on top. The sponge soaked it up. He then put a match to the material, burned off the oil and returned the sponge to the water to absorb more. The robust sponge can be used repeatedly and stands up to abuse; he said a sample remained elastic after about 10,000 compressions in the lab. The sponge can also store the oil for later retrieval, he said.

"These samples can be made pretty large and can be easily scaled up," said Hashim, holding a half-inch square block of billions of nanotubes. "They're super-low density, so the available volume is large. That's why the uptake of oil can be so high." He said the sponges described in the paper can absorb more than a hundred times their weight in oil.

Ajayan, Rice's Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and of chemistry, said multiwalled carbon nanotubes grown on a substrate via chemical vapor deposition usually stand up straight without any real connections to their neighbors. But the boron-introduced defects induced the nanotubes to bond at the atomic level, which tangled them into a complex network. Nanotube sponges with oil-absorbing potential have been made before, but this is the first time the covalent junctions between nanotubes in such solids have been convincingly demonstrated, he said.

"The interactions happen as they grow, and the material comes out of the furnace as a solid," Ajayan said. "People have made nanotube solids via post-growth processing but without proper covalent connections. The advantage here is that the material is directly created during growth and comes out as a cross-linked porous network.

"It's easy for us to make nano building blocks, but getting to the macroscale has been tough," he said. "The nanotubes have to connect either through some clever way of creating topological defects, or they have to be welded together."

When he was an undergraduate student of Ajayan's at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Hashim and his classmates discovered hints of a topological solution to the problem while participating in a National Science Foundation exchange program at the Institute of Scientific Research and Technology (IPICYT) in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. The paper's co-author, Mauricio Terrones, a professor of physics, materials science and engineering at Penn State University with an appointment at Shinshu University, Japan, led a nanotechnology lab there.

"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 be used to clean up oil spills and to perform other tasks," Terrones said. "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. To add the boron, we used very high temperatures and we then 'knitted' the substance into the nanotube fabric."

The researchers have high hopes for the material's environmental applications. "For oil spills, you would have to make large sheets of these or find a way to weld sheets together (a process Hashim continues to work on)," Ajayan said.

"Oil-spill remediation and environmental cleanup are just the beginning of how useful these new nanotube materials could be," Terrones added. "For example, we could use these materials to make more efficient and lighter batteries. We could use them as scaffolds for bone-tissue regeneration. We even could impregnate the nanotube sponge with polymers to fabricate robust and light composites for the automobile and plane industries."

Hashim suggested his nanosponges may also work as membranes for filtration.

"I don't think anybody has created anything like this before," Ajayan said. "It's a spectacular nanostructured sponge."

The paper's co-authors are Narayanan Narayanan, Myung Gwan Hahm, Joseph Suttle and Robert Vajtai, all of Rice; Jose Romo-Herrera of the University of Vigo, Spain; David Cullen and Bobby Sumpter of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn.; Peter Lezzi and Vincent Meunier of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Doug Kelkhoff of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; E. Muñoz-Sandoval of the Instituto de Microelectrónica de Madrid; Sabyasachi Ganguli and Ajit Roy of the Air Force Research Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio (on loan from IPICYT); David Smith of Arizona State University; and Humberto Terrones of Oak Ridge National Lab and the Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium.

The National Science Foundation and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Project MURI program for the synthesis and characterization of 3-D carbon nanotube solid networks supported the research.

####

About Rice University
Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation's top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is known for its "unconventional wisdom." With 3,708 undergraduates and 2,374 graduate students, Rice's undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice has been ranked No. 1 for best quality of life multiple times by the Princeton Review and No. 4 for "best value" among private universities by Kiplinger's Personal Finance. To read "What they're saying about Rice," go to www.rice.edu/nationalmedia/Rice.pdf.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
David Ruth
713-348-6327


Mike Williams
713-348-6728

Copyright © Rice University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related Links

Read the open access paper at:

Related News Press

News and information

Basque researchers turn light upside down February 23rd, 2018

Stiffness matters February 23rd, 2018

Imaging individual flexible DNA 'building blocks' in 3-D: Berkeley Lab researchers generate first images of 129 DNA structures February 22nd, 2018

'Memtransistor' brings world closer to brain-like computing: Combined memristor and transistor can process information and store memory with one device February 22nd, 2018

Arrowhead Receives Regulatory Clearance to Begin Phase 1 Study of ARO-AAT for Treatment of Alpha-1 Liver Disease February 22nd, 2018

Laboratories

Imaging individual flexible DNA 'building blocks' in 3-D: Berkeley Lab researchers generate first images of 129 DNA structures February 22nd, 2018

Atomic Flaws Create Surprising, High-Efficiency UV LED Materials: Subtle surface defects increase UV light emission in greener, more cost-effective LED and catalyst materials February 8th, 2018

Chemistry

Ultra-efficient removal of carbon monoxide using gold nanoparticles on a molecular support: New method and mechanism for state-of-the-art gas purification February 9th, 2018

Fast-spinning spheres show nanoscale systems' secrets: Rice University lab demonstrates energetic properties of colloids in spinning magnetic field February 7th, 2018

New filters could enable manufacturers to perform highly-selective chemical separation January 23rd, 2018

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Imaging individual flexible DNA 'building blocks' in 3-D: Berkeley Lab researchers generate first images of 129 DNA structures February 22nd, 2018

'Memtransistor' brings world closer to brain-like computing: Combined memristor and transistor can process information and store memory with one device February 22nd, 2018

Arrowhead Receives Regulatory Clearance to Begin Phase 1 Study of ARO-AAT for Treatment of Alpha-1 Liver Disease February 22nd, 2018

Computers aid discovery of new, inexpensive material to make LEDs with high color quality February 20th, 2018

Nanotubes/Buckyballs/Fullerenes/Nanorods

Nanotube fibers in a jiffy: Rice University lab makes short nanotube samples by hand to dramatically cut production time January 11th, 2018

Touchy nanotubes work better when clean: Rice, Swansea scientists show that decontaminating nanotubes can simplify nanoscale devices January 4th, 2018

Paving the way for a non-electric battery to store solar energy: UMass Amherst scientists say a polymer chain organized like a string of Christmas lights assists energy storage December 22nd, 2017

Nanotubes go with the flow to penetrate brain tissue: Rice University scientists, engineers develop microfluidic devices, microelectrodes for gentle implantation December 19th, 2017

Discoveries

Basque researchers turn light upside down February 23rd, 2018

Histology in 3-D: New staining method enables Nano-CT imaging of tissue samples February 22nd, 2018

Developing reliable quantum computers February 22nd, 2018

Imaging individual flexible DNA 'building blocks' in 3-D: Berkeley Lab researchers generate first images of 129 DNA structures February 22nd, 2018

Materials/Metamaterials

Basque researchers turn light upside down February 23rd, 2018

Atomic structure of ultrasound material not what anyone expected February 21st, 2018

Rutgers-Led Innovation Could Spur Faster, Cheaper, Nano-Based Manufacturing: Scalable and cost-effective manufacturing of thin film devices February 14th, 2018

Graphene on toast, anyone? Rice University scientists create patterned graphene onto food, paper, cloth, cardboard February 13th, 2018

Announcements

Basque researchers turn light upside down February 23rd, 2018

Stiffness matters February 23rd, 2018

Histology in 3-D: New staining method enables Nano-CT imaging of tissue samples February 22nd, 2018

Developing reliable quantum computers February 22nd, 2018

Military

Graphene on toast, anyone? Rice University scientists create patterned graphene onto food, paper, cloth, cardboard February 13th, 2018

Silk fibers could be high-tech ‘natural metamaterials’ January 31st, 2018

Researchers use sound waves to advance optical communication January 22nd, 2018

New Method Uses DNA, Nanoparticles and Top-Down Lithography to Make Optically Active Structures: Technique could lead to new classes of materials that can bend light, such as for those used in cloaking devices January 18th, 2018

Environment

Ultra-efficient removal of carbon monoxide using gold nanoparticles on a molecular support: New method and mechanism for state-of-the-art gas purification February 9th, 2018

New filters could enable manufacturers to perform highly-selective chemical separation January 23rd, 2018

Rice U.'s one-step catalyst turns nitrates into water and air: NSF-funded NEWT Center aims for catalytic converter for nitrate-polluted water January 5th, 2018

'Quantum material' has shark-like ability to detect small electrical signals December 20th, 2017

Research partnerships

Basque researchers turn light upside down February 23rd, 2018

Computers aid discovery of new, inexpensive material to make LEDs with high color quality February 20th, 2018

Rutgers-Led Innovation Could Spur Faster, Cheaper, Nano-Based Manufacturing: Scalable and cost-effective manufacturing of thin film devices February 14th, 2018

Understanding brain functions using upconversion nanoparticles: Researchers can now send light deep into the brain to study neural activities February 14th, 2018

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project