Graphene Nanobots Can Clean Pollutants from the Ocean

Trevor English

There isn't any question that we have polluted our waters and oceans to a state that seems beyond repair. The problems presented by this are not only the deaths of important ecosystems, but also the impact on available drinking waters. Scientists are now proposing that graphene could be used to clean heavy metals and other pollutants out of dirty water. Certain tests have shown that graphene nanobots can clean almost 95% of lead out of wastewater in very short periods of time.

Current industrial activities are polluting our waters more than ever, and it is estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish according to Science Alert. Waste metals like arsenic, mercury, and cadmium are being dumped at an alarming rate, which poses a delicate problem to the sea life in the area. The graphene nanobots were developed by an international team of researchers, and the have 3 main components.

eco friendly graphene microbots[Image Source: ACS]

Consisting of a graphene oxide external coating, a nickel core, and an internal coating of platinum, the tiny robots can do a lot more than you would think. The graphene oxide is used to absorb the pollutant metals and the nickel core enables control through magnetic influence. The platinum coating actually functions as the chemical 'engine' for the bots, which through a reaction with hydrogen peroxide, the nanobots are propelled forward.

The size of each robot is about the width of a human hair, which is incredible to think about. The graphene bots are reusable as well, and can even make repeated passes on the same polluted area. Current researchers see the opportunity for autonomous control in future developments using some kind of internal influence. This study was focused on removing lead, but future work will adapt the nanobots to remove a wide array of heavy metals from various environments.

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Once the robots are done cleaning, they are recalled using a strong magnetic current, and the heavy metals are washed off using an acidic solution. This kind of technology could also be used for drug and pharmaceutical delivery inside the human body in the coming years. The future of nanobots and graphene is bright, and because of this, the days of once again having clean oceans may be upon us very soon.

SEE ALSO: The potential of graphene for renewable energy systems

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