Nanotubes found in halloysite clay may have biomedical applications.
Typically used in the manufacture of porcelain and fine china, halloysite is a clay mineral composed of aluminum, silicon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Unlike carbon nanotubes, their lab-created nanoscale counterpart, halloysite nanotubes develop naturally in the clay due to the surface weathering of aluminosilicate minerals. The tubes feature diameters ranging from 40 to 200 nm and lengths from 500 nm to more than 1.2 µm.
Halloysite nanotubes are considered favorable materials for biomedical applications because of their geometry. Suited for storing and delivering various materials, their shape is also conducive to controlled release, according to NaturalNano. The materials science firm further emphasizes the versatility of the natural nanotubes; they can be coated with metallic and other substances to broaden physical, chemical, and electrical properties.
“NaturalNano’s halloysite-derived nanotubes have unique properties that make them extremely promising for development in biomedical applications,” says John Lanzafame, president of Nanolution. “We believe this partnership with NaturalNano will lead to a new class of long-lasting controlled-release agents for drugs and other materials, [with applications] in medical device coatings and for pharmaceutical compounds.”
Despite the abundance of available nanotubes in halloysite, mining and separation of the materials is far from facile. Because of this obstacle, NaturalNano is developing a patented process for the mining, extraction, and separation of nanotubes from halloysite clay. The firm plans to apply the natural nanotubes to additives in polymers and plastics, electronic components, and absorbent materials.
Biophan filed a broad patent for biomedical use of the halloysite nanotubes in March. Covered under the patent are such products as bandages and wound-healing applications. The firm retains exclusive rights to NaturalNano’s nanotube technologies for the medical and pharmaceutical market.