Essay: Tiny Motors Can Clean Pollution

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  • Subject area(s): Science essays
  • Reading time: 2 minutes
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  • Published on: January 16, 2020
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  • Number of pages: 2
  • Tiny Motors Can Clean Pollution
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In the video Tiny Motors Can Clean Pollution – Headline Science, it is discussed that scientists are currently developing new tiny, soft motors that are run on things such as light magnets and chemical solutions. These new motors are supposed to serve specific functions, like cleaning up pollution. One specific motor, created by a team of scientists in China, removes organic contaminants, such as pesticides and plastisizers, from water. It was made from inexpensive polyacrylamide hydrogel and then injected with potassium permanganate solution. When the permanganate reacts with dilute hydrogen peroxide in water, hydroxyl radicals are created. These hydroxyl radicals can then break down the organic contaminants. Also this same reaction creates oxygen gas that powers the motor. In a trial test, the motors were able to get rid of methyl blue, a model pollutant, after 75 minutes and leave the blue water colorless. Thus it is shown that these new motors are a promising advancement in reducing pollution.
In further research, according to Chemistry World, organic pollutants can be found in industrial wastewater such as textile companies,pharmaceutical companies and agriculture. These organic pollutants are usually resistant to environmental degradation and cannot be processed with normal biological or chemical water treatments, thus becoming an increasing problem. In 2012 an advancement was made by Joseph Wang, an american scientist, who, with his team, created micromotors that can propel themselves and capture oil droplets, “thereby offering a means to clean up small oil spills” (Cartwright). Another group of scientist, Samuel Sanchez and his colleagues, developed a micromotor made of a platinum core surrounded by iron. When released into polluted water containing dilute hydrogen peroxide, “the motors’ platinum cores convert the peroxide into oxygen bubbles and the surrounding iron produces hydroxyl radicals. Then bubbles propel the micromotors along, while the hydroxyl radicals oxidise organic pollutants” (Cartwright).
According to Mother Nature Network, these tiny motors are, “smaller than the eye can easily see” and can be used to clean water in hard to reach places, like tiny pipes (Platt). Also, because these micromotors are self-propelling, they can break down more pollutants than other methods being used. Samuel Sanchez said thain his teams work to advance these micromotors they,”aim to clean contaminated capillaries, small pipes and places difficult to reach. We are dealing with applications especially for the microscale and environments hard to get to” (Platt). Thus it is seen that these tiny motors will not be used in large scale oceans but rather places inaccessible to humans due to size. Similarly, Li Zhang from the Chinese University of Hong Kong has said that the results in these many tests are promising and show potential for a new way to fight pollution. However, he also notes that much other the research for micromotors has been in the fields of biology and biomedics. Thus he believes that before these micromotors can be put to use cleaning polluted waters, they need to, and are also worth, be apart of continuous trials and research (Platt).
Overall, I think that these micromotors have great potential in cleaning polluted waters if researchers take the time to advance them even more.

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