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The Expanding Frontiers of Carbon Nanotube Technology
3 Jul 2018   

The Clean Water Project made an exciting discovery about the possible applications of carbon nanostructures to water purification, biomedical research, and energy research. Dr. Ming Ma, one of the scientists on the project, recently published a paper that summarizes the current status of work in this field.

The team at Tsinghua University includes (left to right) Ming Ma, Kunqi Wang, Wei Cao, and Jin Wang. Not pictured: Yao Cheng

Dr. Ming Ma (of the Computing for Clean Water project) at Tsinghua University recently published a paper in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering entitled "Carbon nanostructure based mechano-nanofluidics." The paper is a thorough survey of all the recent research work on fluid flow in carbon nanostructures, such as carbon nanotubes and graphene sheets.

Carbon atoms can form single-atom thick sheets known as graphene. When these are rolled into tube shape, they are called carbon nanotubes. In recent years, there has been a flurry of research work with these nanostructures, called that because they deal with very tiny atomic structures measured in nanometers (billionths of a meter). The Computing for Clean Water project is one example of recent research in this area: By using World Community Grid to simulate water flow through carbon nanotubes at an unprecedented level of detail, the project's research team discovered that under specific conditions, certain kinds of natural vibrations of atoms inside the nanotubes can lead to a 300% increased rate of diffusion (a kind of flow) of water through the nanotubes.

Among their many surprising properties are the ability to dramatically enhance water flow through or past the nanostructures. There is much research being conducted to understand how this happens and ultimately how to make best use of this property to potentially purify water, desalinate water, and meet other goals in biomedical and energy research. Challenges remain in how to efficiently manufacture these materials and how to adjust their structures to achieve the best results.

You can read the paper at http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1361-6439/aaa782.

Thanks to everyone who supported this project.