Marchmontís focus on innovation: Ural nano-particles to clean soils and upgrade data carriers
27 Jan '12
Oleg Kouzbit, Online News Managing Editor
Scientists from the Uralsí Electrophysics Institute have obtained new magnetic nano-particles that can be used as advanced sorbents to treat man-caused contamination of soils and waste waters. Longer term, the original approach may bring about revolutionary composite materials and data carriers with unrivaled magnetic recording density.
To achieve the project goal Yekaterinburg researchers have developed a new sophisticated laser that is said to have enabled the project team to double nano-particle yield and reduce laser energy consumption by an impressive eight times compared to similar international efforts.
When put to commercial use, the technique will apply magnetic ferric oxide nano-particles to removing or decontaminating what our economic activity mercilessly discards into soils and sewage around us.
Wider applications are also on the horizon, the Electrophysics Institute hopes. With further upgrading of Yekaterinburg innovative magnetic nano-powder synthesis the new knowledge is expected to go beyond treatment of polluted lands and waters, clearing the way for development of a whole new set of composite materials as well as data carriers with unparalleled magnetic recording density.
Step 1: unleashing magnetic nano-powers on eco-adversaries
Using magnetic sorbents to Ďdevourí pollutants has been on the applied science table for some time already. All across the globe researchers believe a sorbentís magnetic properties would help discontinue use of expensive chemical methods to remove a used purifier from solutions; a simple magnetic field would do the job much faster.
Magnetic ferric oxide nano-powders have been identified as probably the best Ďcandidateí for such an efficient sorbent as they effectively eliminate heavy metals like chrome from various media. A substance with increased sorption capacity, the powder contains particles that are easily controlled with a magnetic field.
At the Electrophysics Institute, which is part of the Yekaterinburg-based Ural branch of the Russian Academy of Sciencesóthe main funder of the project, researchers have offered advanced laser synthesis as what they believe to be ďthe bestĒ magnetic nano-particles production technique to date.
How it works
In their proprietary laser emission technology, the scientists reportedly applied laser-induced evaporation to conventional non-magnetic ferric oxide powder in a pressed form. Vapors that emanated from the target substance then condensed in a stream of air and argon and were taken by the gas mixture to an array of filtering elements.
The process resulted in 15.3-nanometer particles shaped spherically or in a sort of faceted way. When analyzing the nano-powderís crystallographic form, the researchers identified clear phases of magnetic ferric oxides like maghemite and magnetite. At certain gas pressure, however, the oxides are said to have revealed their metastable phase that would reduce the nano-powderís magnetic properties.
By varying gas pressure and mixture circulation speed the research team says it eventually optimized synthesis conditions and achieved a breakthrough both in nano-particle yield and laser energy consumption.