Are Nanomaterials the Solution for Particle Pollution?

A Stanford University scientist has developed an air filtering material that experts believe may solve the problem of particulate pollution.

What is Particle Pollution?

Let’s ask the Environmental Protection Agency:

“Particle pollution (also called particulate matter or PM) is the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope.”

Those very tiny particles are not only hard to see, they are hard to filter out. That is where the new nanomaterials come in.

How could Nanomaterials help?

The Stanford scientists used a material called Polyacrylonitrile (PAN), commonly used to make non-latex gloves for the healthcare industry. PAN is a very strong material which has the added advantage of actually attracting the particles that are so harmful.

“A process called electrospinning was used to convert the liquid PAN into a bundle of solid fibers like a spiderweb. The individual fibers are about one thousandth the width of a human hair, but when integrated into a crisscrossing network with other fibers, it effectively filters particulate matter out of the air. The filters made from electrospun PAN are still 70% transparent to visible light, but can capture more than 99% of particles blown through it. Perhaps most importantly, they¬†don’t impede air flow.”

Strong, translucent, breathable, and filter out dangerous particle pollution? Sounds like great stuff!

How long will we have to wait to improve Particle Pollution?

Lots of testing still needs to be done, so it will take a while before PAN filters will make it to the consumer market, but there are many potential uses for them, in cars, power plants, factories, medical facilities, homes and schools.

It only takes a “gentle breeze” to make these particle pollution filters work. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that gentle breeze didn’t carry any air pollution into our indoor or outdoor environments? Ahhh.