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Making Fluids Flow at the University of Kentucky

Dr. Rodney Andrews

CAER Associate Director of Carbon Materials, Rodney Andrews and Dept. of Chemical and Materials Engineering Associate Professor, Bruce Hinds, have been getting great publicity lately. After their article "Nanoscale Hydrodynamics: Enhanced Flow in Carbon Nanotubes" appeared in the November issue of Nature, their work was featured locally by the Lexington Herald-Leader and as a UK radio spot. While these media outlets may sound provincial to some, they represent the seldom-seen crossover from academic accolades to public recognition. This doesn't happen often.

What is causing all the fuss is that the group is describing a way for fluids to pass through membranes made of nanotubes -- at rates 10,000 to 100,000 times faster than conventional wisdom predicted. The rapid-flow effect had been theorized, but the UK group is the first to confirm it.

The finding adds weight to the idea that nanotube membranes could be used to form fast, highly-efficient filters used in everything from military uniforms to drugs to food.

According to Hinds, liquids can zip through the membranes because the arrangement of carbon atoms in nanotubes provides a "flat" surface that is "nearly friction free."

This finding implies that nanotube membranes could be used as filters that could be "set" to let some materials pass through, while keeping others out. It also could be possible to electrically open or close the tubes, letting materials pass only when desired. The applications for these membranes are phenomenal.

This exciting endeavor is another example of teamwork between the Center for Applied Energy Research and its on-campus counterparts. Co-authors include Mainak Majumder and Nitin Chopra of UK's Chemical and Materials Engineering Department.

More information can be obtained by contacting Dr. Rodney Andrews at his Email address.