Carbon nanotube (CNT) sponges, uniquely doped with sulphur, demonstrated a high capacity to absorb both wastewater and oil, potentially opening up the possibility of using the material in industrial accidents and oil spill clean-ups.
CNTs are hollow cylindrical structures composed of a single sheet of carbon. Owing to their structure, CNTs have extraordinary thermal, chemical and mechanical properties that have led to an array of applications from body armour to solar panels.
They have been touted as excellent candidates for wastewater clean-up; however, problems have arisen when trying to handle the fine powders and eventually retrieve them from the water.
In the new study, the researchers, from the University of Roma, University of Nantes and University of L’Aquila, bulked up the CNTs to the necessary size by adding sulphur during the production process―the resulting sponge had an average length of 20 mm.
The addition of sulphur caused defects to form on the surface of the CNT sponges which then enabled ferrocene, which was also added during the production process, to deposit iron into tiny capsules within the carbon shells.
The presence of iron meant the sponges could be magnetically controlled and driven without any direct contact, easing the existing problem of trying to control CNTs when added onto the water’s surface.
Also: Learn about Use of Functionalized Carbon Nanotubes for Covalent Attachment.