Print 22 comment(s) - last by JonnyDough.. on Jun 8 at 6:54 AM

MIT's nanowire mesh completely absorbs hydrophobic chemicals quickly and completely.  (Source: Francesco Stellaci, MIT, Nature Nanotechnology)
A new material composed of nanowires may aid pollution cleanup and water filtration.

Nanotechnology has been taking a beating in the media lately. Though the possibilities for nanotech are practically endless, it remains to be seen whether all these new inventions will ultimately be more beneficial than detrimental to humans. There has been coverage on many popular facets of the expanding field, from headway in medical science to functional nanobots to the possibility of popular nanoparticles possessing carcinogenic properties.

Rather than the popular medical science field, a group of scientists at MIT have been concentrating on a work a little more friendly to nature. Last week the group published a paper in the journal Nature Nanotechnology detailing their oil-absorbing nanomesh material.

Rather than using nanoparticles like Rice's oil or water capturing system, MIT's material is actually a mat of potassium manganese oxide nanowires. The nanowire mesh, made much in the same way as normal paper, possesses several properties that make it ideal for cleaning hydrophobic chemicals like oil from water. The physical structure of the mesh allows for a great deal of capillary action, which lets the mesh soak in up to 20 times its own weight in oil.

The material is also benefits from a hydrophobic coating and does not attract water, allowing only the chemicals in a mixture to be captured. According to the authors, the mesh could soak in water indefinitely and will be completely dry when removed, though any chemicals subject to the mesh's other properties will be removed with it. The mesh is also quite durable, and able to be heated safely to above the boiling point of oil, allowing the oil to be evaporated off, collected, and both the mesh and oil reclaimed for further use.

The nanowire mesh is a promising addition to environmental cleanups. Not only is it a highly selective material, making it very efficient, due to its composition and production methods, bulk manufacturing should be quite inexpensive. In addition to spill cleanups, the mesh could be employed in simple filters to remove pollutants from water systems. Though reclaiming the captured chemicals may not be currently feasible for consumers, filters could be collected and recycled by outside organizations.

The group has also published a short clip showing the mesh in action (FLV player required).

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By Master Kenobi on 6/6/2008 8:08:45 AM , Rating: 2
This sort of thing will be quite handy in long spaceflight. Nanotech will enable the production of advanced recycling systems to maximize resources for long voyages.

RE: Space
By Bruneauinfo on 6/6/2008 8:19:22 AM , Rating: 2
i suppose it could lead to the ultimate diaper. i'm thinking Dune.

of course we'll introduce the fabric at infancy so our young can grow up not being completely disgusted by the idea as we will be. :p

RE: Space
By Master Kenobi on 6/6/2008 8:22:34 AM , Rating: 2
Indeed, Fremen Stillsuit. Sign me up!

RE: Space
By FITCamaro on 6/6/2008 8:59:19 AM , Rating: 3
Please....Brian.....there's so much doody......I..I...I don't think I can fit anymore in there......

RE: Space
By MrBlastman on 6/6/2008 9:49:55 AM , Rating: 2
I dunno about you but I'd still rather pull up to a tree than have it slosh around in my pants.

You forget one key principle - what do you do with the smell?

Dude walks down the street - "Hey babe! You're lookin mighty fiiiiiiiiine."

Woman turns away and walks quickly holding her nose.


RE: Space
By feraltoad on 6/7/2008 1:13:04 AM , Rating: 2
I guess I'll go on home it's late.
My diaper must not smell so great.
But wait, what do I see?
She's walking back for pee.
Yeah, she's walking back, for pee.

future uses?
By shockf1 on 6/6/2008 7:54:47 AM , Rating: 2
with tech like this we could soon have the ability to recycle all the water useage from our homes.
all it needs is a few more nano filters to get the rest of the contaminence out of the water and we will be good to go!!

RE: future uses?
By jbzx86 on 6/6/2008 9:59:50 AM , Rating: 3
Not only could it filter out contaminates, but it could theoretically be used to filter out salt and other particles from sea water. Cheaper alternative to desalinization?

RE: future uses?
By chmilz on 6/6/2008 11:43:53 AM , Rating: 2
The mesh is also quite durable, and able to be heated safely to above the boiling point of oil, allowing the oil to be evaporated off, collected, and both the mesh and oil reclaimed for further use.

For desalinization the filter would have to be re-usable, like in the scenario above. Salt as a solid would be rather difficult to remove from a large, porous filter. I'm sure it can be done, worth researching for sure.

RE: future uses?
By wormpharmer on 6/7/2008 4:30:22 PM , Rating: 2
just wondering but... how will it be able to filter out salt when its spectrum is hydrophobic?

Seriously though
By FITCamaro on 6/6/2008 9:02:39 AM , Rating: 2
Sounds like this kind of thing has the potential to make some extremely advanced, light, and reusable filters for water and who knows, maybe even other liquids.

RE: Seriously though
By 325hhee on 6/6/2008 9:33:39 AM , Rating: 2
Hmm, Square Bob's new adversary? Nanotech super absorbent Square Pants.

I wonder which paper towel company will be the first to mass produce this, Brawny, Bounty, Marcel, etc. I can't wait for these to be available for the consumers, may make cleaning the home and cars easier, some times I feel there's some oil residuals left after wiping down some things, especially windows.

RE: Seriously though
By FITCamaro on 6/6/2008 10:10:25 AM , Rating: 2
I don't know how good of an idea it would be to use in paper towels. If it can suck the water off the floor, it might be able to suck it out of your skin with how tiny the cells are.

RE: Seriously though
By borismkv on 6/6/2008 10:59:56 AM , Rating: 3
Except that it's made of hydrophobic materials, which means that it'll never pick up water. Basically, the only thing this stuff will be useful for as a paper towel type thing is to clean up serious garage type messes. If you try to use it as a kitchen cleaning thing, you'll end up with the cleanest water spills in the world, but you'd still have a buttload of water on the floor.

By masher2 on 6/6/2008 10:24:02 AM , Rating: 1
> "it remains to be seen whether all these new inventions will ultimately be more beneficial than detrimental to humans. "

No it doesn't. It's clear to anyone but the most puerile of fearmongering ninnies that the benefits of nanotechnology will far outweigh any possible disadvantages.

RE: Fearmongering
By TheDoc9 on 6/6/2008 10:57:55 AM , Rating: 2
In this story alone they mention using it in water filtration and consumption seems to be what they have in mind. The forum posts here corroborate this.

To me, it seems like it would make sense that in the process of filtration pieces of the wire would break off into the water, the result being a possibly dangerous mixture if consumed. I won't be retro fitting a brita pitcher with this.

RE: Fearmongering
By GaryJohnson on 6/6/2008 11:25:36 AM , Rating: 2
Are the little pieces of the brita filter more safe?

RE: Fearmongering
By JonnyDough on 6/8/2008 6:54:11 AM , Rating: 2
Are little pieces of aluminum in your blood stream safe? I doubt it, but we still use antiperspirant. I would somehow imagine that sharp pieces of carbon could do more damage once it reaches my brain than fiberglass insulation. Something about carbon nanotech and it's ability to be super-strong scares me ever since I read about the possibility of it shredding my brain tissues, frightens me. Some people don't value their brains, it's why they do drugs, get boozed up on the weekends, and headbang. I for one, prefer to keep my brain cells intact, as they are somewhat irreplaceable.

RE: Fearmongering
By LeviBeckerson on 6/6/2008 5:31:34 PM , Rating: 2
You may believe it and I may believe it, but there are a whole slew of people who still don't. History is pretty telling on what can happen in these kinds of situations with technology. And if that's not fun enough, just let sci-fi do the talking, since half or more of everything in sci-fi seems to eventually become reality.

By therealnickdanger on 6/6/2008 7:28:39 AM , Rating: 2
Finally! Guilt-free spillage!

RE: *phew*
By FITCamaro on 6/6/2008 9:00:44 AM , Rating: 2
New on ABC. Oil Tanker Battle Extreme!

Cheaper gas
By TheNuts on 6/6/2008 12:44:43 PM , Rating: 2
Could we possible invent a huge "ringer-outter" that could ring out the oil filled mesh into barrels and refine it to gasoline???

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

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