Carbon nanotubes are one of the nanotechnology wonder materials of the near future, used in electronics, optics, for super-strong materials and as novel semiconductors, but there are emerging concerns about the environmental and health risks associated with accidental leaks of the raw material. Now a team at the University of Pittsburgh has created a partial solution to this problem by inventing a clean-up technique that successfully dissolves nanotubes.
In the clean-up technique, one of the ingredients is the natural enzyme horseradish peroxidase. The peroxidase is mixed with hydrogen peroxide solution to create a product that actively dissolves single-walled nanotubes. The team tested their technique on raw, powder-form nanotubes which are known to cause lung irritation. Clearly it’s a work in progress, since the test took 12 weeks to work. But the team thinks it may evolve into a useful nanotech spill-recovery system that works “as easily as chemical cleanups in today’s labs.”
Nanotubes are so very new that much remains unknown, and a reliable clean-up method like this will undoubtedly aid nanotube research.