1/16/2007

Pimp My Nanotubes

As far as wacky materials papers go, noone's got anything on RSC journals. The self-cleaning cotton article I discussed earlier was from an RSC journal. I think out of all the journals, the most entertaining to read are Angewandte Chemie and ChemComm, the former for allowing flowery, grandiose language that occasionally makes for entertaining prose- the kind of writing I wish the scientific community would start favoring. One need only read one of one of Nicolaou's excellent reviews in ACIE to know what I mean.

But anywho! This awesome article comes from ChemComm's ASAP I got this morning. ChemComm's articles are always on the fringe of really novel chemistry, sometimes bordering on the simply wacky. This ChemComm from Ma and coworkers can I think best be described in the following theoretical brainstorm session:

Boss: Alright everyone, we want to get aromatics like benzene out of the water supply. Suggestions?
Lackey: Uh, well, activated carbon seems to work pretty well...
Boss: Too messy! Impossible to separate!
Lackey #2: Well what if we use something a little easier to separate, like, I dunno, iron? We could use magnets.
Boss: Iron doesn't get crap out of the water supply!
Lackey #2: What if we adhere it to the carbon?
Boss: Hmm... kay. How do we do that?
Nano-Obsessed Lackey: You know carbon nanotubes are more efficient at adsorbing aromatics than activated carbon is...
Boss: Nanotubes! Everyone loves nanotubes! Instant paper!
Nano-Obsessed Lackey: Yeah! And we can put little iron nanoparticles INSIDE the nanotubes, and functionalize the nanotubes with ionizable groups to make them even MORE soluble! Then, we can just remove the stuff from the water with a magnet!
All: Hurrah! Beer and fellowship money all around!

And thus, these pimped-out nanotubes were born. The group started with some multi-walled nanotubes which they stuffed with iron, reduced under high temperatures to generate pure iron nanoparticles, while simultaneously using a radical-initiated process (with everyone's favorite radical initiator- AIBN) to functionalize the nanotubes with a cyano group which is subsequently hydrolyzed to form water-soluble carboxylates on the nanotube surface.


The result is a pimped-out water-soluble magnetic nanotube that can adsorb benzene with the best of them, be removed easily with a simple bar magnet, washed and reused. Great application of nanocrap for use in cleaning up the environment! Is there nothing these lil' nanotubes can't do?

11 comments:

Ψ*Ψ said...

Something about the functionalized nanotubes reminds me of insects...

Derek Lowe said...

It's funny how tastes vary - Nicolau's writing style gives me the shakes, to be honest.

Excimer said...

I frankly think there needs to be a revolution in scientific writing- a way to get away from the dry, terse, jargon-obsessed vernacular of chemical literature today into something that actually displays a concern for communication to an audience beyond the scope of those who are directly involved in their particular field of study. The things I write in this blog are (sort of) a testament to what I'd like to see change as a whole.

Nicolaou writes like a Greek would- in a characteristically grand, occasionally over-the-top manner. The science is there, and (controversially in Nicolaou's case) it is good, so he adds a bit of his own flair to it. I would prefer to see more of a sense of humanity in all aspects of science, and this would require more scientists to remove their heads from their collective asses and lower their noses to see the world around them. In humanizing the communication of science, we would humanize the very concept of science- something that needs to be done.

Ψ*Ψ said...

So, excimer, how would you suggest science should be written?

Excimer said...

lol, I dunno. I'm a critic, I just point out problems- I don't solve anything.

Chemgeek said...

Allow me to make a prediction. I bet in the next 5-10 years, the accepted style of science writing will change significantly. I think this will be due, in part, to blogs such as this and the many others that have popped up in the last 3 years or so.

These blogs have become ways to comment on and discuss science in an informal, yet (in most cases) authoritative manner. [Of course, any crackpot can write a blog. Take me for example. I'm not an authority on anything and I have a blog.]

I try to read at least a dozen blogs a day. This is certainly not wasted time. I learn things. Especially things that fly under my radar (and there are many). If blogs can affect national elections, I'm sure they can affect science as well.

This phenomenon will have an affect on science writing, and I think in a generally good way.

There's your solution excimer. Blogs!!!

Revathi said...

What a round about way to purify water! I am surprised that the editor of chem comm really believed that such a procedure can actually be used in real life..
Is this supposed to be the cutting edge?

Mike said...

I frankly think there needs to be a revolution in scientific writing- a way to get away from the dry, terse, jargon-obsessed vernacular of chemical literature today into something that actually displays a concern for communication to an audience beyond the scope of those who are directly involved in their particular field of study.

Well, popular science magazines exist and they write in a more entertaining verbose way. But to be very honest: I actually don't want to read 'Cell' reports which are 30 pages long, if you could easily fit them on 15 (and I don't think about varying font-size). Not speaking of issues like how any articles could be covered in one journal volume. We don't want to carry around books instead of booklets, do we?

These blogs have become ways to comment on and discuss science in an informal, yet (in most cases) authoritative manner.

That's true, but they lack detail. Details which are crucial for scientists in the field and details which 'field-foreign' scientists could simply skip. Which brings me back to paper length and the willingness to read all the junk overly enthusiastic authors would put into their reports.

retired chemist said...

What would you choose
Newton's principia or article in today's scientific journal or "blog" type paper?

Andrew said...

Mike:
I cannot agree more with your opinion. But still I continue to maintain a blog about chemistry. Journal articles are certainly for professional researchers only. Ironically, they are far from enough for, particularly, professional researchers, because they know better than other that, besides detailed they badly need idea. So in my blog I tried not only to report research works that are interesting in content but also intriguing in concept. I also sometimes add my own idea on them. If journal article is the playground of (detailed) works done, blog may be the playground of ideas. So a vivid style of language is preferred. (I cannot use a vivid style of language because my English is at the beginner's stage.)

Elinker said...

How do they know it's a nanotube? Looks like a rogue fibre from a labcoat to me with some small particles attached.

I want proof it's a nanotube!

The fact that they put nanotubes into a reaction does not mean that after work-up the things under the TEM you are seeing is a nanotube.