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A team of scientist in Shanghai, China has placed magnetic nanoparticles into the thin-film realm. The group has created a flexible magnetic nanofibrous membrane by combining gelatin dip-coating methods with electrospun silica nanofibers. An external magnet can control the membrane flexion. The membrane also demonstrates selective wettability meaning that it is impervious to oil while easily allowing water to penetrate through.

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Traditional porous silica nanofibrous membranes are brittle, but this one is not. To create a flexible membrane the team electrospun a porous membrane of interlaced silica nanofibers. They grew NiFe2O4 nanoparticles on this flexible silica nanofibrous membrane through a gelatin dip-coating method described in detail in the published article. The nanoparticles were 20-50nm in size, were partially inlayed evenly in the silica nanofiber network, and made up 31.6% by weight of the finished magnetic membrane.

The finished product maintains its structure even after 15 minutes of sonication, and can withstand multiple bending cycles without breaking. The membrane can adsorb methylene blue dye. It can be separated out of solution with an external magnet. It can separate an emulsion of oil and water with nothing more than atmospheric pressure and gravity.

“A general strategy for fabricating flexible magnetic silica nanofibrous membranes with multifunctionality.” Yang Si, Chengsheng Yan, Feifei Hong, Jianyong Yu, Bin Ding.Chem. Commun., 2015, 51, 12521-12524. DOI: 10.1039/C5CC03718B.

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Lluis M. Martínez | SEPMAG Chief Scientific Officer

Founder of SEPMAG, Lluis holds a PhD in Magnetic Materials by the UAB. He has conducted research at German and Spanish academic institutions. Having worked in companies in Ireland, USA and Spain, he has more than 20 years of experience applying magnetic materials and sensors to industrial products and processes. He has filed several international patents on the field and co-authored more than 20 scientific papers, most of them on the subject of magnetic particle movement.

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