Findings were detailed in a research paper that appeared in August in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The paper was written by Jafvert and Kulkarni.
The researchers determined the "octanol-water partition coefficient," which enables them to show how readily buckyballs would be partitioned.
"The bottom line is, if buckyballs partition favorably from water to octanol, they are also likely to partition favorably from water to fatty tissues," Jafvert said.
The researchers also are investigating whether sunlight breaks down buckyballs and other structures called carbon nanotubes, which also could have widespread industrial applications.
"We need to learn how reactive these materials are in the environment," Jafvert said. "Do they break down? What kinds of products do they form? We have learned so far that buckyballs absorb light, and they do photoreact. That's potentially a good thing because it means it won't hang around for a long period of time, reducing the exposure concentration, which would then reduce any potential toxicity that it may or may not have."
Named after architect R. Buckminster Fuller, who designed the geodesic dome, buckminsterfullerenes, or buckyballs, are soccer-ball-shaped molecules containing 60 carbon atoms. A buckyball has a width of about 1 nanometer, or one-billionth of a meter, which is roughly 10 atoms wide.
The researchers determined precisely how soluble the buckyballs are in water and confirmed that the molecules form clusters, which complicates efforts to understand how they might be dispersed by water in the environment.
"Typically, buckyballs are not found in water because their solubility is so low, but the same could be said of DDT," Jafver
|Contact: Emil Venere|