Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New research raises questions about buckyballs and the environment

10.05.2005


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 Society’s peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology. ACS is the world’s 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 haven’t 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.


But Hughes and his collaborators at Rice University in Texas have found that buckyballs combine into unusual nano-sized clumps — which they refer to as "nano-C60" — that are about 10 orders of magnitude more soluble in water than the individual carbon molecules.

In this new experiment, they exposed nano-C60 to two types of common soil bacteria and found that the particles inhibited both the growth and respiration of the bacteria at very low concentrations — as little as 0.5 parts per million. "What we have found is that these C60 aggregates are pretty good antibacterial materials," Hughes says. "It may be possible to harness that for tremendously good applications, but it could also have impacts on ecosystem health."

Scientists simply don’t know enough to accurately predict what impact buckyballs will have on the environment or in living systems, which is exactly why research of this type needs to be done in the early stages of development, Hughes says.

He suggests that his findings clearly illustrate the limitations of current guidelines for the handling and disposal of buckyballs, which are still based on the properties of bulk carbon black. "No one thinks that graphite and diamond are the same thing," Hughes says. They’re both bulk carbon, but they are handled in completely different ways. The same should be true for buckyballs, according to Hughes.

These particles are designed to have unique surface chemistries, and they exhibit unusual properties because they are at the nanometer scale — one billionth of a meter, the range where molecular interactions and quantum effects take place. It is precisely these characteristics that make them both so potentially useful and hazardous to biological systems. "I think we should expect them to behave differently than our current materials, which have been studied based on natural bulk forms," Hughes says. "Learning that C60 behaves differently than graphite should be no surprise."

Overall, the toxicological studies that have been reported in recent years are a signal that the biological response to these materials needs to be considered. "That doesn’t mean that we put a halt on nanotechnology," Hughes says. "Quite the opposite."

"As information becomes available, we have to be ready to modify these regulations and best practices for safety," he continues. "If we’re doing complementary studies that help to support this line of new materials and integrate those into human safety regulations, then the industry is going to be better off and the environment is going to be better off."

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization, chartered by the U.S. Congress, with an interdisciplinary membership of more than 158,000 chemists and chemical engineers. It publishes numerous scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

Michael Bernstein | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.acs.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Flavins keep a handy helper in their pocket
25.04.2018 | University of Freiburg

nachricht Complete skin regeneration system of fish unraveled
24.04.2018 | Tokyo Institute of Technology

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: BAM@Hannover Messe: innovative 3D printing method for space flight

At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.

Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...

Im Focus: Molecules Brilliantly Illuminated

Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.

Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Getting electrons to move in a semiconductor

25.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Reconstructing what makes us tick

25.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Cheap 3-D printer can produce self-folding materials

25.04.2018 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>