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Issue 44, 2015
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Designing a gel–fiber composite to extract nanoparticles from solution

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Abstract

The extraction of nanoscopic particulates from flowing fluids is a vital step in filtration processes, as well as the fabrication of nanocomposites. Inspired by the ability of carnivorous plants to use hair-like filaments to entrap species, we use computational modeling to design a multi-component system that integrates compliant fibers and thermo-responsive gels to extract particles from the surrounding solution. In particular, hydrophobic fibers are embedded in a gel that exhibits a lower critical solution temperature (LCST). With an increase in temperature, the gel collapses to expose fibers that self-assemble into bundles, which act as nanoscale “grippers” that bind the particles and draw them into the underlying gel. By varying the relative stiffness of the fibers, the fiber–particle interaction strength and the shear rate in the solution, we identify optimal parameters where the particles are effectively drawn from the solution and remain firmly bound within the gel layer. Hence, the system can be harnessed in purifying fluids and creating novel hybrid materials that integrate nanoparticles with polymer gels.

Graphical abstract: Designing a gel–fiber composite to extract nanoparticles from solution

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Publication details

The article was received on 12 Jul 2015, accepted on 10 Sep 2015 and first published on 10 Sep 2015


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C5SM01719J
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Citation: Soft Matter, 2015,11, 8692-8700

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    Designing a gel–fiber composite to extract nanoparticles from solution

    Y. Liu, X. Yong, G. McFarlin, O. Kuksenok, J. Aizenberg and A. C. Balazs, Soft Matter, 2015, 11, 8692
    DOI: 10.1039/C5SM01719J

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