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Environ Sci Technol. 2007 Jan 1;41(1):179-84.

Natural organic matter stabilizes carbon nanotubes in the aqueous phase.

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  • 1School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, 200 Bobby Dodd Way, Atlanta, Georgia 30332, USA.


This study investigates the aqueous stability of multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWNTs) in the presence of natural organic matter (NOM). MWNTs were readily dispersed as an aqueous suspension in both model NOM (Suwannee River NOM (SR-NOM)) solutions and natural surface water (actual Suwannee River water with unaltered NOM background), which remained stable for over 1 month. Microscopic analyses suggested that the suspension consisted primarily of individually dispersed MWNTs. Concentrations of MWNTs suspended in the aqueous phase, quantified using thermal optical transmittance analysis (TOT), ranged from 0.6 to 6.9 mg/L as initial concentrations of MWNT and SR-NOM were varied from 50 to 500 mg/L and 10 to 100 mg/L, respectively. Suwannee River water showed a similar MWNT stabilizing capacity as compared to the model SR-NOM solutions. For the same initial MWNT concentrations, the concentrations of suspended MWNT in SR-NOM solutions and Suwannee River water were considerably higher than that in a solution of 1% sodium dodecyl sulfate, a commonly used surfactant to stabilize CNTs in the aqueous phase. These findings suggest that dispersal of carbon-based nanomaterials in the natural, aqueous environment might occur to an unexpected extent following a mechanism that has not been previously considered in environmental fate and transport studies.

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