Capturing 'black gold' with light

March 17, 2016
Capturing ‘black gold’ with light

New Monash University research published this week in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Nanoscale has found a simple and effective way of capturing graphenes and the toxins and contaminants they attract from water by using light. The findings could have significant implications for large-scale water purification.

A small amount of a special -sensitive soap was added to the containing the graphenes and contaminants. The soap changes its molecular structure when light of a particular colour is shone onto it. This changes the way it interacts with carbon materials in the graphene and causes them to separate out (along with contaminants stuck to them), enabling easier extraction of the graphenes and contaminants. Shining a different coloured light re-disperses the graphenes for re-use.

Monash researcher Dr Rico Tabor explained the diverse technological opportunities offered by graphene owing to its unique structure and properties.

"Among its many potential uses, the prospect of using graphenes for the purpose of water purification is extremely promising. Because the structure is essentially two-dimensional and only an atom thick, graphene `sheets' have the highest surface area possible, meaning their capacity to mop up contaminants in water surpass that of any currently used materials or membranes," Dr Tabor said.

"However, this raises the problem of how to extract the graphenes and from water. Traditional approaches use high amounts of energy by centrifugation, or adding large amounts of polymer at high cost," Dr Tabor said.

Co-researcher Thomas McCoy explained the significance of these latest research findings and the benefits of using light to capture graphenes.

"Light is appealing as it is abundantly available, simple and low cost when compared to most separation methods. Our latest research findings could have significant implications for cost-effective, large-scale water treatment," Mr McCoy said.

Explore further: Cost-effective, solvothermal synthesis of heteroatom (S or N)-doped graphene developed

More information: Thomas M. McCoy et al. Light-controllable dispersion and recovery of graphenes and carbon nanotubes using a photo-switchable surfactant, Nanoscale (2016). DOI: 10.1039/C6NR00075D

Related Stories

Revolutionary graphene filter could solve water crisis

March 10, 2016

A new type of graphene-based filter could be the key to managing the global water crisis, a study has revealed. The new graphene filter, which has been developed by Monash University and the University of Kentucky, allows ...

Leaf-mimicking device harnesses light to purify water

January 6, 2016

For years, scientists have been pursuing ways to imitate a leaf's photosynthetic power to make hydrogen fuel from water and sunlight. In a new twist, a team has come up with another kind of device that mimics two of a leaf's ...

Recommended for you

Particles self-assemble into Archimedean tilings

December 8, 2016

(Phys.org)—For the first time, researchers have simulated particles that can spontaneously self-assemble into networks that form geometrical arrangements called Archimedean tilings. The key to realizing these structures ...

Nano-calligraphy on graphene

December 8, 2016

Scientists at The University of Manchester and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have demonstrated a method to chemically modify small regions of graphene with high precision, leading to extreme miniaturisation of chemical ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.