Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists observe single ions moving through tiny carbon-nanotube channel

10.09.2010
Channels could be used for sensitive detectors or water-desalination systems

For the first time, a team of MIT chemical engineers has observed single ions marching through a tiny carbon-nanotube channel. Such channels could be used as extremely sensitive detectors or as part of a new water-desalination system. They could also allow scientists to study chemical reactions at the single-molecule level.

Carbon nanotubes — tiny, hollow cylinders whose walls are lattices of carbon atoms — are about 10,000 times thinner than a human hair. Since their discovery nearly 20 years ago, researchers have experimented with them as batteries, transistors, sensors and solar cells, among other applications.

In the Sept. 10 issue of Science, MIT researchers report that charged molecules, such as the sodium and chloride ions that form when salt is dissolved in water, can not only flow rapidly through carbon nanotubes, but also can, under some conditions, do so one at a time, like people taking turns crossing a bridge. The research was led by associate professor Michael Strano.

The new system allows passage of much smaller molecules, over greater distances (up to half a millimeter), than any existing nanochannel. Currently, the most commonly studied nanochannel is a silicon nanopore, made by drilling a hole through a silicon membrane. However, these channels are much shorter than the new nanotube channels (the nanotubes are about 20,000 times longer), so they only permit passage of large molecules such as DNA or polymers — anything smaller would move too quickly to be detected.

Strano and his co-authors — recent PhD recipient Chang Young Lee, graduate student Wonjoon Choi and postdoctoral associate Jae-Hee Han — built their new nanochannel by growing a nanotube across a one-centimeter-by-one-centimeter plate, connecting two water reservoirs. Each reservoir contains an electrode, one positive and one negative. Because electricity can flow only if protons — positively charged hydrogen ions, which make up the electric current — can travel from one electrode to the other, the researchers can easily determine whether ions are traveling through the nanotube.

They found that protons do flow steadily across the nanotube, carrying an electric current. Protons flow easily through the nanochannel because they are so small, but the researchers observed that other positively charged ions, such as sodium, can also get through but only if enough electric field is applied. Sodium ions are much larger than protons, so they take longer to cross once they enter. While they travel across the channel, they block protons from flowing, leading to a brief disruption in current known as the Coulter effect.

Strano believes that the channels allow only positively charged ions to flow through them because the ends of the tubes contain negative charges, which attract positive ions. However, he plans to build channels that attract negative ions by adding positive charges to the tube.

Once the researchers have these two types of channels, they hope to embed them in a membrane that could also be used for water desalination. More than 97 percent of Earth’s water is in the oceans, but that vast reservoir is undrinkable unless the salt is removed. The current desalination methods, distillation and reverse osmosis, are expensive and require lots of energy. So a nanotube membrane that allows both sodium and chloride ions (which are negatively charged) to flow out of seawater could become a cheaper way to desalinate water.

This study marks the first time that individual ions dissolved in water have been observed at room temperature. This means the nanochannels could also detect impurities, such as arsenic or mercury, in drinking water. (Ions can be identified by how long it takes them to cross the channel, which depends on their size). “If a single arsenic ion is floating in solution, you could detect it,” says Strano.

Source: “Coherence Resonance in a Single Walled Carbon Nanotube Ion Channel,” by Chang Young Lee, Wonjoon Choi, Jae-Hee Han, and Michael S. Strano. Science, 9 September, 2010.

Funding: Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology at MIT, U.S. Army Research Office and a fellowship from the Sloan Foundation

Jen Hirsch | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.mit.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH

nachricht Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>