Although carbon nanotubes usually clump in water, they readily disperse when the water contains natural organic matter, researchers report. Their study provides a glimpse of how the nanotubes might behave if released into a waterway.
Carbon nanotubes are prized for their strength and electrical properties (SN: 6/14/03, p. 372: Super Fibers: Nanotubes make tough threads), and their production and market continue to grow. Researchers have reported that in the laboratory, these nanoparticles are strongly repulsed by water and attracted to each other. But scant information exists about how the tubes would behave in the environment, notes Jae-Hong Kim, an environmental engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
Kim and his colleagues set out to see whether the decayed plant and animal material found in waterways would affect carbon nanotubes. The scientists used multiwalled nanotubes, each of which is a collection of concentric tubes