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Study: Carbon nanotubes can be toxic to aquatic life

Carbon nanotube schematic, courtesy the Wikimedia Commons.

Researchers urge caution in manufacturing, stepping up waste management oversight

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Carbon nanotubes, valuable for strengthening industrial and recreational products, can kill aquatic organisms, according to University of Alaska and U.S. Geological Survey researchers, who said it’s important to guard against release of the materials into the environment as the materials enter mass production.

“The great promise of carbon nanotubes must be balanced with caution and preparation,” said Baolin Deng, professor and chair of chemical engineering at the University of Missouri. “We don’t know enough about their effects on the environment and human health. The EPA and other regulatory groups need more studies like ours to provide information on the safety of CNTs.” Continue reading

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Environment: Nanoparticles shown to stunt plant growth

Lab research suggests tiny engineered materials can cause genetic mutations

Graphic showing that increasing exposure to cupric oxide bulk particles and nanoparticles by radish plants also increases the impact on growth, with nanoparticles showing the largest impact. PHOTO COURTESY H. WANG/EPA.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Nanoparticles can build up in plants and cause genetic mutations, according to researchers with the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who tested ultrafine cupric oxide particles on radishes and grasses in a laboratory setting.

The material is used in the manufacture of semiconductors, as a pigment and as a catalyst in the production of Rayon, among other uses.

“To our knowledge, this is first evidence that there could be a ‘nano-based effect’ for cupric oxide in the environment where size plays a role in the increased generation and accumulation of numerous mutagenic DNA lesions in plants,” said National Institute of Standards chemist Bryant C. Nelson. Continue reading

Metallic nanotubes may replace copper-based power grid

A high voltage power line in Washington. PHOTO BY JEFFREY G. KATZ VIA THE CREATIVE COMMONS.

New technology could prevent leakage of electricity from long distance transmission lines

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Finding just the right recipe of temperatures, pressures, reaction times and catalyst ratios, scientists at Rice University say they’ve refined the process for mass producing nanotubes that can carry an electric current over long distances without leaking electricity along the way.

In a press release, the university said the pivotal breakthrough could help replace copper electrical wires to create an electrical grid of the future. The existing copper-wire grid leaks electricity at an estimated rate of 5 percent for every 100 miles of transmission, said  Rice chemist Andrew R. Barron, author of a paper about the latest step forward published online by the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters.

Armchair quantum wire will be a weave of metallic nanotubes made from massive amounts of metallic single-walled carbon nanotubes, dubbed armchairs for their unique shape. Armchairs are best for carrying current, but can’t yet be made alone. They grow in batches with other kinds of nanotubes and have to be separated out, which is a difficult process, given that a human hair is 50,000 times larger than a single nanotube. Continue reading

Environment: Nano-pollution in the Arctic?

Silver nanoparticles may be killing nitrogen-fixing bacteria

Eidsfjord in Vesterålen, Norway, is situated 250 km inside the Arctic Circle. New research by Queens University scientists suggests that these remote areas may be affected by nanoparticle pollution. PHOTO VIA WIKIPEDIA UNDER A FREE ART LICENSE.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Studies of Arctic soil samples suggest that silver nanoparticles — commonly used in anti-bacterial agents — are killing important nitrogen-fixing bacteria in remote areas generally thought to be free of pollution.

“Millions of tons of nanoparticles are now manufactured every year, including silver nanoparticles which are popular as antibacterial agents,” said Virginia Walker, a professor in the Queens University Department of Biology. “We started to wonder what the impact of all these nanoparticles might be on the environment, particularly on soil.”

The scientists said that the nanoparticles, which are now present in everything from socks to salad dressing and suntan lotion, may have irreparably damaging effects on soil systems and the environment. Continue reading

Summit-based nanotech company starts production

Mixing polymeric chemicals along with ceramic compounds for nCeramic materials. Catalyst compounds at this step to make nCATfiber materials.

Nano-engineered fibers reduce the cost of pollution-control products

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — After five years of research and development, MemPro, a nanotech company with headquarters here in Summit County, last week started producing ceramic nanofibers in a pilot facility in Akron, Ohio.

The products efficiently reduce exhaust pollutants from engines and from power-generating facilities at a lower cost than existing metal-based catalytic filter technology.

“We have two brands of fibers that we make by a polymeric/ceramic process developed over the past five years,” said MemPro CEO John Finley. “Our patented PreciseFiber™ manufacturing process is unique and beginning to serve automotive, energy, chemical and pharmaceutical markets worldwide.” Continue reading

Nanotechnology could improve pesticides

An engineered DNA strand between metal atom contacts could function as a molecular electronics device. Such molecules and nanostructures are expected to revolutionize electronics. Understanding the complex quantum physics involved via simulation guides design. For NASA, devices and sensors made from such molecules and nanostructures may be particularly useful when electrical power is limited.

But researchers call for full disclosure and warn that a new testing framework is needed to ensure public safety

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Recognizing the huge potential for nanotech applications in pesticides, researchers are calling for a new way of approaching potential public health issues associated with the emerging uses.

Disclosure is a key part of that strategy, according to a recent report released by scientists from Oregon State University and the European Union, who called on manufacturers to disclose exactly what nanoparticles are involved in their products and what their characteristics are.

Another issue is to ensure that compounds are tested in the same way humans would be exposed in the real world.

“You can’t use oral ingestion of a pesticide by a laboratory rat and assume that will tell you what happens when a human inhales the same substance,” said David Stone, an assistant professor in the OSU Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology. “Exposure of the respiratory tract to nanoparticles is one of our key concerns, and we have to test compounds that way.” Continue reading

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