A research team comprising Jean-Claude Bonzongo and Kirk Ziegler from the University of Florida is working on ways to reduce environmental hazards of carbon nanotubes.
The team’s primary focus is to study the toxicity of carbon nanotube aqueous solutions utilized in some production processes. The latest findings have been reported in the journal, Nanotoxicology.
This nanomaterial is already being utilized in touch screens and fabrication of highly efficient tiny transistors. If researchers succeed in using the nanomaterial in lithium ion batteries, it may become a significant power source for products, ranging from smartphones to hybrid vehicles. However, there are some issues in this nanotechnology.
Bonzongo informed that the toxicity of the nanotubes depends on the way of utilization of nanomaterials, which can have similar properties as asbestos in lab mice. Ziegler said that carbon nanotubes have a tendency to aggregate. To solve this issue, the nanotubes should be in a dispersed state, which allows electron interactions to convert them as good conductors. One method to disperse the nanomaterials is to dispense them in an aqueous solution, which functions as a detergent and isolates the tangled bundles.
Bonzongo explained that certain surfactants or solutions are toxic in nature or some turn out be toxic by the nanotubes. The researchers are studying such solutions that turn out to be toxic when the nanomaterial is added. They found that toxicity of the nanotubes can be decreased by controlling the liquid to particulate ratio.
Manufacturers have to find a cost-effective dispersing method to make the nanotubes suitable for use in mass-produced electronics. Processes such as centrifugal sifting and mechanical homogenization utilized for lab prototypes are not cost-effective for producing consumer electronics. Hence, liquid suspension agent-based process may be the solution to mass produce carbon nanotube-based products. Carbon nanotubes are a promising technology and need to be studied for sustainability in terms of human health and environment, Bonzongo concluded.