Carbon nanotube research worth its salt in Science

A 2006 research paper about carbon nanotubes offering a cheaper solution to desalination authored by CMELS scientists Olgica Bakajin and Aleksandr Noy has garnered the No. 1 most cited chemistry article in Science. The research involves a nanotube membrane on a silicon chip the size of a quarter that may offer a cheaper way to remove salt from water. The Livermore team created a membrane made of carbon nanotubes and silicon that may offer, among many possible applications, a less expensive desalination method. Bakajin and Noy were both recruited to Livermore as "Lawrence Fellows" — the Laboratory's initiative to bring in talented young scientists. In addition to Bakajin and Noy, current staff scientist Jason Holt and postdoctoral scholar Hyung Gyu Park were first authors of the highly cited Science article. Other LLNL co-authors included Yinmin Wang, Michael Stadermann and Alexander Artyukhin.

Though the research appeared in May 2006, Bakajin said it's still garnering much attention. "The reason why nanofluidics is receiving increased attention now is that people are beginning to realize that extreme molecular confinement in nanoscale pores can and does result in new physics of flow," she said. "Our paper has, arguably, been the most important work to date because it provided the first unambiguous experimental demonstration of the drastic enhancement of flow in carbon nanotube pores and presented a versatile and convenient experimental platform for studying that phenomenon." Several members of the same team recently presented research on the use of carbon nanotubes for molecular transport that appeared in the June 6, 2008 online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

And the research continues. The team is working on understanding the physics of transport through the nanotube pores and finding different ways to improve and control the transport selectivity. Understanding the fundamental physics and mechanism of transport through the nanotube pores also could lead to more efficient membrane separation techniques. "We believe that we can utilize the enhanced transport properties of carbon nanotube pores to create the world's best membranes that would become the foundation for future generations of separation technologies," Bakajin said.

View the original Science article. For more information on the technology, go to the related article.