19-May-2021 - Max-Planck-Institut für Kolloid- und Grenzflächenforschung

In milliseconds from polluted to clear water

New discoveries in the field of nanoscience

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces developed a membrane that is composed of a bundle of nanometer-sized tubes. They used it as a nanoreactor to convert water marked with methylene blue into clear water in milliseconds using sunlight as a driver. ‘Running reactions in fluids with lower viscosity in a blink of an eye represents a new opportunity for chemistry,’ says Prof. Markus Antonietti, Director of the Department of Colloid Chemistry.

Chemistry is often considered as a mature discipline in which new findings only emerge at the outer rims. A team led by Dr. Aleksandr Savateev has now shown that there are still remarkable surprises in the very core, at the nanoscale. Properties of common fluids like water depend on the size of the container in which they are confined. If you fill water, already a quite agile liquid with low viscosity, into a nanosized container that can fit only a few water molecules, it becomes ‘superfluidic’. The smaller the confinement, the larger the superfluid effect. Not all water is the same.

How it works

In their reaction experiments, the Savateev group developed a membrane composed of billions of parallel carbon nitride tubes, each with a diameter of a few nanometers, which is 1/10,000 of a human hair. They observed that water slides through these tubes without any friction. In such settings, light is used as a driver for the chemical transformation of polluted water into clear water, while quantum confinement created by the membrane also directs energy of light with unprecedented efficiency. The concave surface of the parallel, nearly one-dimensional tubes, serves as a kind of a mirror that concentrates internal electric field inside the nanotube. Combined with the light coming from outside, it enhances drastically the reaction rate. ‘In ordinary 3D space, reaction rates in milliseconds are simply impossible,’ Dr. Savateev says.

‘We are actively working on the development of this technology to synthesize fuel and other for the society important materials using sustainable energy like solar light, in simple devices comparable to a coffee filter,’ says Aleksandr Savateev.

Facts, background information, dossiers

More about MPI für Kolloid- und Grenzflächenforschung

  • News

    Green Chemistry: Sustainable p-xylene production

    Lemonade, juice and mineral water often come in PET bottles. While these are practical and functional, their production is complex and not necessarily sustainable. The starting material for terephthalic acid, which is used to produce saturated polyesters such as PET (Polyethylene terephthal ... more

    Put into the right light - Reproducible and sustainable coupling reactions

    A team of researchers reports in the journal Nature Catalysis that sustainable carbon-nitrogen cross-couplings can be performed using simple nickel salts, carbon nitrides and light. The chemists study the use of cost-effective and reproducible semiconductors as photocatalysts in coupling re ... more

    "Make two out of one" - Division of Artificial Cells

    The success of life on earth is based on the amazing ability of living cells to divide themselves into two daughter cells. During such a division process, the outer cell membrane has to undergo a series of morphological transformations that ultimately lead to membrane fission. Scientists at ... more

  • q&more articles

    With Light in the Fight against Malaria

    Malaria represents a global threat to health, which is difficult to keep under control. Amongst more than 200 million sufferers, over 500,000 die each year of the disease, with the risk of a fatal outcome being particularly high in children [1]. more

  • Authors

    Dr. Daniel Kopetzki

    born 1983, studied chemistry at the University of Regensburg and received his doctorate from the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, in the Department of Colloid Chemistry. Since Sept. 2011, he has been working as a post-doctoral fellow for Prof. Dr. Seeberger at the ... more

    Prof. Dr. Peter Seeberger

    born 1966, studied chemistry at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, and received his doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Colorado. After holding a post-doctorate position at the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in New York City, he was Assistant Professor and Fir ... more

More about Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

  • News

    Cell-culture breakthrough: Advanced “mini brains” in the dish

    “Outer Radial Glia” (oRG) cells are nervous system stem cells that are instrumental for the development of the human cortex and have been challenging to produce in the lab. Now, a team of Max Planck researchers from Berlin succeeded in generating brain organoids that are enriched with these ... more

    Green wave for “gene cabs”

    Viruses help researchers to introduce genes into cells so that they can produce active pharmaceutical ingredients, for example. Special peptides stimulate the process. Until now, however, the efficiency increase was poorly understood. A team of researchers from the MPI for Polymer Research, ... more

    Microparticles with feeling

    An international research team headed by the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, Aarhus University and the Science for Life Lab in Uppsala has developed tiny particles that measure the oxygen concentration in their surroundings. In this way, they can track fluid flow and ... more

q&more – the networking platform for quality excellence in lab and process

The q&more concept is to increase the visibility of recent research and innovative solutions, and support the exchange of knowledge. In the broad spectrum of subjects covered, the focus is on achieving maximum quality in highly innovative sectors. As a modern knowledge platform, q&more offers market participants one-of-a-kind networking opportunities. Cutting-edge research is presented by authors of international repute. Attractively presented in a high-quality context, and published in German and English, the original articles introduce new concepts and highlight unconventional solution strategies.

> more about q&more

q&more is supported by: