A paper looking at a sustainable new way to purify water published in Nature Communications has thrust Deakin University’s into the world’s eye.
“We have been bombarded by the international media seeking stories and interviews,” said Deakin’s Professor Ian Chen, who led the research team of Dr Wei Wei Lei, David Portehault, Dan Liu and Si Qin.
“We were also selected by the journal as one of its main news story on its website.”
It is hardly surprising the paper titled Porous boron nitride nanosheets for effective water cleaning has caught the world’s attention.
Oil spillage, organic solvents and dyes discharged by the textile, paper and tannery industries are primary pollutants of water sources.
The effective removal of oils, organic solvents and dyes from water is of significant, global importance for environmental and water source protection,” said Dr Wei Wei Lei, the Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Fellow who played a key role in the project.
“Advanced sorbent materials with excellent sorption capacity need to be developed.
“In our paper we report on porous boron nitride nanosheets with very high specific surface areas that exhibit excellent sorption performances for a wide range of oils, solvents and dyes.
“The nanostructured material absorbs up to 33 times its own weight in oils and organic solvents while repelling water.
“Because of their strong resistance to oxidation, the saturated boron nitride nanosheets can be readily cleaned for reuse by burning or heating in air.
The ability to recycle so simply and easily further shows the potential of porous boron nitride nanosheets for water purification and treatment.
“What we have developed is unique and has enormous potential on the global market," said Dr Lei.
It has been known since the early 1930’s that boron 10 has the ability to capture neutrons.
However, manufacturing pure boron nitride nanotubes in large quantities has been an issue.
Professor Chen and his colleagues have developed a ball milling method that has overcome the problem of producing the boron nitride nanotubes in commercial qualities.
It seems they will have applications way beyond water purification.
Research teams led by Prof Chen has been worked on various boron nitride nanomaterials for more than a decade.
“I have also been working with researchers at NASA about the possible applications of boron nitride nanotubes in space missions,” Professor Chen said.
“Several years ago they asked me to prepare boron nitride nanotube samples for tests on the space station.”
Professor Chen says there will also be more earthly uses for the boron nanotubes, including the production of electrical power.
“There is a lot of talk about developing fusion energy to feed an energy-hungry world,” he said.
“One of the challenges to developing fusion energy on a commercial basis is coming up with materials that can provide shielding from the high neutron fluxes produced by the fusion process.
“Boron nitride nanotubes might just allow us to do that, too.”
Dr Lei on The Conversation