Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Buckyballs' Have High Potential To Accumulate In Living Tissue

Date:
September 19, 2008
Source:
Purdue University
Summary:
Research suggests synthetic carbon molecules called fullerenes, or buckyballs, have a high potential of being accumulated in animal tissue, but the molecules also appear to break down in sunlight, perhaps reducing their possible environmental dangers.

Model of a 'buckyball' molecule.
Credit: iStockphoto/David Freund

Research at Purdue University suggests synthetic carbon molecules called fullerenes, or buckyballs, have a high potential of being accumulated in animal tissue, but the molecules also appear to break down in sunlight, perhaps reducing their possible environmental dangers.

Related Articles


Buckyballs may see widespread use in future products and applications, from drug-delivery vehicles for cancer therapy to ultrahard coatings and military armor, chemical sensors and hydrogen-storage technologies for batteries and automotive fuel cells.

"Because of the numerous potential applications, it is important to learn how buckyballs react in the environment and what their possible environmental impacts might be," said Chad Jafvert, a professor of civil engineering at Purdue.

The researchers mixed buckyballs in a solution of water and a chemical called octanol, which has properties similar to fatty tissues in animals. Jafvert and doctoral student Pradnya Kulkarni were the first to document how readily buckyballs might be "partitioned," or distributed into water, soil and fatty tissues in wildlife such as fish.

Findings indicated buckyballs have a greater chance of partitioning into fatty tissues than the banned pesticide DDT. However, while DDT is toxic to wildlife, buckyballs currently have no documented toxic effects, Jafvert said.

"This work points out the need for a better understanding of where the materials go in the environment," he said. "Our results show they are going to be taken up by fish and other organisms, possibly to toxic levels. This, however, indicates only the potential of buckyballs to bioaccumulate. They could break down in the environment or in an organism once taken up."

Researchers do not yet know whether buckyballs will break down in the environment or will be metabolized by animals, which would reduce the risk of accumulating in fatty tissues.

"For example, we don't bioaccumulate sugars because we process sugars, but we do bioaccumulate other compounds that we don't metabolize," Jafvert said. "If we have the ability to metabolize buckyballs, we won't bioaccumulate them."

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," Jafvert said. "DDT is found in sediment, so you would assume buckyballs would also end up in sediments. That means there is also a chance that marine organisms, like worms that are eating sediment, are going to be potentially accumulating buckyballs unless they break down in the environment."

The research is affiliated with the Center for the Environment and the Birck Nanotechnology Center at Purdue's Discovery Park and is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation through the NSF's Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Team, or NIRT. The work is part of a larger NIRT project at Purdue involving researchers in agronomy, civil engineering, agricultural and biological engineering, mechanical engineering, food science, and earth and atmospheric sciences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Purdue University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Purdue University. "'Buckyballs' Have High Potential To Accumulate In Living Tissue." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 September 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080918171148.htm>.
Purdue University. (2008, September 19). 'Buckyballs' Have High Potential To Accumulate In Living Tissue. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080918171148.htm
Purdue University. "'Buckyballs' Have High Potential To Accumulate In Living Tissue." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080918171148.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Building Google Into Cars

Building Google Into Cars

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Google's next Android version could become the standard that'll power your vehicle's entertainment and navigation features, Reuters has learned. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
AP Review: Nikon D750 and GoPro Hero 4

AP Review: Nikon D750 and GoPro Hero 4

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) What to buy an experienced photographer or video shooter? There is some strong gear on the market from Nikon and GoPro. The AP's Ron Harris takes a closer look. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins