In a challenge to conventional wisdom, scientists have found that buckyballs dissolve in water and could have a negative impact on soil bacteria. The findings raise new questions about how the nanoparticles might behave in the environment and how they should be regulated, according to a report scheduled to appear in the June 1 print issue of the American Chemical Societys peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology. ACS is the worlds largest scientific society.
A buckyball is a soccer ball-shaped molecule made up of 60 carbon atoms. Also known as fullerenes, buckyballs have recently been touted for their potential applications in everything from drug delivery to energy transmission. Yet even as industrial-scale production of buckyballs approaches reality, little is known about how these nano-scale particles will impact the natural environment. Recent studies have shown that buckyballs in low concentrations can affect biological systems such as human skin cells, but the new study is among the earliest to assess how buckyballs might behave when they come in contact with water in nature.
Scientists have generally assumed that buckyballs will not dissolve in water, and therefore pose no imminent threat to most natural systems. "We havent really thought of water as a vector for the movement of these types of materials," says Joseph Hughes, Ph.D., an environmental engineer at Georgia Tech and lead author of the study.
Michael Bernstein | EurekAlert!
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