Carbon nanotubes found to be toxic to aquatic animals

Aug 22, 2012

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are some of the strongest materials on Earth and are used to strengthen composite materials, such as those used in high-performance tennis rackets. CNTs have potential uses in everything from medicine to electronics to construction. However, CNTs are not without risks. A joint study by the University of Missouri and United States Geological Survey found that they can be toxic to aquatic animals. The researchers urge that care be taken to prevent the release of CNTs 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."

CNTs are microscopically thin cylinders of that can be hundreds of millions of times longer than they are wide, but they are not pure carbon. Nickel, chromium and other metals used in the manufacturing process can remain as impurities. Deng and his colleagues found that these metals and the CNTs themselves can reduce the growth rates or even kill some species of . The four species used in the experiment were mussels (Villosa iris), small flies' larvae (Chironomus dilutus), worms (Lumbriculus variegatus) and crustaceans (Hyalella azteca).

"One of the greatest possibilities of contamination of the environment by CNTs comes during the manufacture of ," said Hao Li, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at MU. "Good waste management and handling procedures can minimize this risk. Also, to control long-term risks, we need to understand what happens when these composite materials break down."

Explore further: Blades of grass inspire advance in organic solar cells

More information: The results were published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

Related Stories

Carbon nanotube composites for enzymes and cosmetics

Sep 06, 2011

Japanese researchers have developed a low cost and efficient method for producing electrically conducting composites based on electrostatic adsorption of CNTs onto resin and ceramic particles for applications ...

How do green algae react to carbon nanotubes?

Nov 04, 2011

Nanoparticles such as carbon nanotubes (CNT), which are found in an ever-increasing number of products, are ending up more and more frequently in our surroundings. If and how they affect aquatic ecosystems ...

Study on cytotoxicity of carbon nanotubes

Dec 22, 2008

Owing to the novel properties of carbon nanotubes (CBNs), a series of problems associated with in vitro toxicity assessments of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have appeared in many literatures. In order to properly evaluate the ...

A nanoclutch for nanobots

May 24, 2012

Chinese researchers have designed and tested simulations of a "nanoclutch," a speed regulation tool for nanomotors.

Carbon nanotubes could go antiballistic

Nov 09, 2007

CSIRO (Australia) has been granted $2 million under the Defence Capability and Technology Demonstrator (CTD) Program to demonstrate the capabilities of carbon nanotubes as strong, lightweight antiballistic materials.

Recommended for you

Blades of grass inspire advance in organic solar cells

6 hours ago

Using a bio-mimicking analog of one of nature's most efficient light-harvesting structures, blades of grass, an international research team led by Alejandro Briseno of the University of Massachusetts Amherst ...

How to make a "perfect" solar absorber

Sep 29, 2014

The key to creating a material that would be ideal for converting solar energy to heat is tuning the material's spectrum of absorption just right: It should absorb virtually all wavelengths of light that ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

indio007
1 / 5 (1) Aug 23, 2012
They are toxic to humans too.
Case Report: Lung Disease in World Trade Center Responders 
Exposed to Dust and Smoke: Carbon Nanotubes Found in the Lungs 
of World Trade Center Patients and Dust Samples
http://ehp03.nieh....0901159

"The predominant finding of interstitial lung disease on pathology and presence of similar materials in most of the mineralogic samples including CNT and platy silicates suggests that WTC exposure may have contributed to the development of lung disease."