By Will Soutter
Engineers at Drexel University have been carrying out research to identify potential applications of carbon nanotubes. These nanotubes have a structure similar to straws and their thickness is thousand times smaller than a single human hair. In a recent development to the ongoing study at Drexel, the engineers have employed carbon nanotubes to separate liquids in a solution.
The team has demonstrated that each nanotube could behave as a separation channel that compels the molecules of two different liquids to separate in a fashion similar to oil and water molecules.
The separation mechanism is attributed to the differences in interaction between the molecules of different liquids with the carbon nanotube. When two chemically distinct liquids are considered, one liquid might drain through the nano-sized straw much quicker than the other liquid, thereby leading to separation of the two liquids. This technique could find application in many areas including forensic studies where forensic analysts have to carry out their work with very small sample sizes. This method could facilitate trace evidence analysis down to single cell or even invisible stains.
Dr. Yury Gogotsi, director of the A.J. Drexel Nanotechnology Institute, stated that the study results could give way to analytical tools for single living cells. Dr. Gogotsi and Dr. Gary Friedman, director of the Drexel Plasma Medicine Lab jointly led a recent research on nanotubes for cellular chromatography applications. The nanotubes employed in the study are 70 nm in diameter and robust, making them suitable for cellular level applications which necessitate penetration of the cell membrane.