University of Bristol scientists have developed a magnetic soap, which basically is a common soap only it’s filled with iron atoms that causes the targeted waste material to become magnetized. The detergent has a real potential of revolutionizing how mega clean-ups will be handled in the future. An oil spill could be cleaned a lot more easier and with a lower risk, for instance.
The magnetic soap was created after scientists disolved iron in a bunch of inert materials similar to those usually found in fabric softeners ( chloride and bromide ions). To demo the compound, in a test tube containing the soap, covered by a less dense organic solution (oil), a magnet was introduced which caused the soap and the attached material to conquer gravity and water adhesion forces, and rise towards the magnet.
“If you’d have said about 10 years ago to a chemist: ‘Let’s have some soap that responds to magnets‘, they’d have looked at you with a very blank face,” co-author Julian Eastoe of the University of Bristol, told BBC News. “We were interested to see, if you went back to the chemical drawing board with the tool-kit of modern synthetic chemistry, if you could…design one.”
Most probably this won’t likely become a commercial house-hold cleaning product in the future, however it could render massive results in providing an effective waste water or oil spill clean-up. A machine would simply have to real in the waste through a magnetized duct and into its tank, decontaminating the area.
Eastoe and his team took a sample of iron-rich surfactant at the Institut Laue-Langevin, in Grenoble, France, where it is was confirmed that the sample does indeed have magnetic properties after intense beam of sub-atomic particles known as neutrons were fired upon it.
“The particles of surfactant in solution are too small to see using light but are easily revealed by neutron scattering which we use to investigate the structure and behavior of all types of materials at the atomic and molecular scale,” said Dr. Isabelle Grillo, head of the Chemistry Laboratories at ILL.
“As most magnets are metals, from a purely scientific point of view these ionic liquid surfactants are highly unusual, making them a particularly interesting discovery. From a commercial point of view, though these exact liquids aren’t yet ready to appear in any household product, by proving that magnetic soaps can be developed, future work can reproduce the same phenomenon in more commercially viable liquids for a range of applications,” Eastoe told BBC News.
“The research at the University of Bristol in this field is about how we can take the ordinary and give it extraordinary properties by chemical design,” said Eastoe. “We have uncovered the principle by which you can generate this kind of material and now it’s back to the drawing board to make it better.”
The team of researchers published the research in the chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie.