A next-generation material first initially developed for use in electronics has proven itself a capable oil absorbent for polluted waters. The new material Boron Nitride, or “white graphene”, is similar in structure to its namesake Graphene consisting of a Nano sheet of single bonded atoms laid out like a chain-link fence. A recent research report claims that when these sheets are combined it forms a coarse white powder that can soak up organic pollutants such as industrial chemicals and oil.
Boron Nitride itself is obviously not new to science but when arranged in porous Nano sheets, the white powder vastly outperformed commercially available chunks of boron nitride. In tests the powder soaked up as much as 33 times its own weight in the chemical ethylene glycol and 29 times its own weight of engine oil. Better still the saturated powder also floats on water.
According to the authors of the research these properties make these porous Boron Nitride Nano sheets suitable for a wide range of applications in spill control, water purification and effluent treatment.
The research is an extension of the groundbreaking discovery of Graphene, the most well-known two dimensional nano material consisting of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb structure. It is the thinnest material known to man and yet is also one of the strongest. Apparently it would take an elephant standing on a pin to pierce the sheet – not something you can try at home!
As was the case with graphene the key question is whether the stuff can be manufactured commercially at an economic price to challenge existing product technology in this case the tried and tested specialist oil and chemical absorbents currently available. It’s a long and no doubt costly journey from the research lab to the market place but we wish the researchers luck.Read more »