Shake, shake, shake. If you just flashed back to 1976 then you have both a good taste in music and a great memory. But, I’d like to bring you back to 2015. That noise isn’t the Sunshine Band, it’s researchers at Michigan Technological University and they’re shaking remnants of nanotechnology out of our drinking water using water and oil.
Nanomaterials are used in many popular products from cell phones to medical devices to sunscreen. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 1,300 commercial products contain some sort of nanomaterial. They find their way into water systems and we really have no way of effectively getting them out. Paper and mesh filters are ineffective. “These materials are very, very tiny,” said lead researcher Dongyan Zhang, “and that means if you try to remove them and clean them out of contaminated water, that it’s quite difficult.”
The secret? It’s all in the wrist. Well, not really. It’s actually in the subtle interactions between water and oil. At the nano-scale, the oil–water interface works as a trap, catching the nanomaterials between the fluids. The research showed a nearly 100% success rate for all tested nanomaterials.
The researchers believe this innovative, yet simple technology will play an important role in purifying water and helping to address environmental concerns surrounding the growth of the nanomaterial industry, which is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. They also hope it will help the adoption of nanotechnology by alleviating concerns of critics.
The research, “A Simple and Universal Technique To Extract One- and Two-Dimensional Nanomaterials from Contaminated Water,” is published in the American Chemical Society’s journal of Applied Materials and Interfaces.
Photo Credit: Michigan Tech News