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Nanowaste: Predicting the environmental fate of buckyballs

As companies gear up to make industrial quantities of nanomaterials, worries mount about the safety of these products should they end up contaminating the environment. A new study indicates that buckyballs, one of the most well-studied nanomaterials, undergo considerable changes in different aquatic environments. So, their effects probably will vary from place to place.

A buckyball is made up of 60 carbon atoms arranged into the shape of a miniature soccer ball. How buckyballs react in natural aquatic ecosystems is a matter of special concern because laboratory studies have shown that this nanomaterial can damage brain cells of fish (SN: 4/3/04, p. 211: Tiny Trouble: Nanoscale materials damage fish brains).

Buckyballs could soon find their way into pharmaceuticals, solar cells, batteries, and many other products. By 2007, Frontier Carbon Corporation based in Tokyo, expects to produce about 10 tons of buckyballs annually.

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