Fluid Dynamics in Nanochannels More Unusual than Thought
Anyone who has driven home during rush hour expects that uneven movement leads things to slow down. According to researchers at Northwestern University however, the opposite may be true in the case of water moving through nanochannels; the interior of nanotubes.
For some time it has been believed that water will travel through the center of a nanotube evenly. At one point when this assumption was tested, it came back that the water molecules were traveling some ten thousand times faster than predicted. This was explained away as the result of the smoothness of the interior of the nanotubes, but the new observations challenge that. Instead of the molecules moving with an even, constant flow, the Northwestern researchers suggest that instead they move intermittently as a result of the difference in the size of water molecules and the spacing between carbon atoms in the nanotube. This causes areas to form where the water molecules are unstable and then move through the channel very easily and readily.
Many applications could benefit from this improved understanding of fluid dynamics, including water desalination systems, carbon nanotube-powered batteries, and more. Also it is important to note that while they are not comprised of carbon nanotubes, cell membranes possess nanochannels that regulate fluid flow between a cell and its environment.
Source: Northwestern University