Nano Elements of Nature: Air

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Changing air properties has been our own making; Man has drastically disturbed the nature of Earth's atmosphere through constant human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and pollutants. Although political-economic communities have failed, or have chosen to fail, to put an end to this urgent problem since the last decades of the 19th century to this very day, the environment-friendly scientific communities have provided nanotechnology solutions.

There are two major approaches to remediate air pollutants applying nanotechnology: nano-catalysts and nano-structured membranes. To understand how nano-catalysts work, we need first to know what catalysts are. A catalyst is an exhaust emission control device that converts toxic chemical engines exhaust into less toxic ones; catalysts are all that stands between a society depending on engines and the toxic pollutants they create.

Nano-catalysts have a greater surface area than normal catalysts made from larger particles, which allows more chemicals to interact with the catalyst, simultaneously making it more effective. Speeding up the chemical interactions responsible for transforming the harmful vapors from cars and factories into harmless gases, nano-catalysts do our Earth’s atmosphere, and us, a great favor.

Nano-structured membranes are designed for trapping the emissions of greenhouse gases caused by mining, power generation stations and industrial plants. These filtration membranes have nano-pores that are small enough to separate methane or carbon dioxide from the exhausted emissions. John Zhu, a Queensland-University-researcher, states that these membranes can trap gases up to hundred times faster than the conventional ones.

The challenge this technology once faced was the disposal of filtered substances; researchers determined a method to recycle these substances into manufacturing material for nano-structured membranes themselves, converting the filtered wastes into filters.

References

nanotech-now.com
dujs.dartmouth.edu
understandingnano.com

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