traditionally viewed as a simple ceramic mineral but great
strides have been made recently in end-uses that take advantage
of halloysites unique mineral structure that range from
nail polish, to cancer cures, and
is a rare clay that is a member of the kaolin family of
aluminosilicates and is mined in very few places in the
of world production is mined at a well established Imerys mine
in New Zealand and a relatively new mine belonging to
Applied Minerals in Utah, US.
deposit is used chiefly for ceramics and is part of Imerys
Tableware New Zealand while the Applied Minerals deposit
focuses on a variety of end markets including fire retardants,
polymer composites, paints and coatings, and
Halloysite a unique
Halloysites benefits lie in its nanotube structure. Halloysite
natural tubules are ultra-tiny hollow tubes with diameters
typically smaller than one tenth of a micron (100 billionths of
a meter), with l
engths typically ranging from about half of a micron
(millionths of a meter) to over five microns. The hollow
opening (lumen) of a nanotubes is approximately 20
| Imerys' halloysite mine in Matauri Bay, New
structure is believed to be the result of hydrothermal
alteration, or surface weathering of other aluminosilicate
minerals (such as kaolin).
Significantly, halloysite nanotubes do not require large
amounts of chemical modification or complex chemical processes,
such as intercalation and exfoliation, in order to produce
stable nanoparticle clay dispersions.
a major processor of halloysite, have found that this makes it
possible to obtain performance improvements without the
complexity and processing cost associated with other
nanotubes give halloysite its great advantages and are the key
to the advances being made in its end-markets.
NaturalNano Inc. is a major player in the halloysite
markets and the primary supplier of halloysite clay to further
which has a plant in Rochester, New York, also processes
halloysite clay for its own range of products.
| NaturalNano's lab in Rochester, New York
It does this
by using Extended Release technology. This system
loads the nanotubes with relevant substances for the end
product and then mixes the loaded nanotubes with the end
of using nanotubes lies in the way they diffuse, NaturalNano
says. Diffusion from a tube is different to diffusion from a
sphere due to the relationship between volume and surface
diffusion is much closer to zero order release which means
continuous and even release over time, which would not
necessarily occur with a standard spherical release
sources its halloysite from a producer outside of the US. It
has it processed here [Rochester plant] and then it is
ready to be utilised, CEO James Wemett told IM.
NaturalNanos technology can remove impurities from
halloysite using source material from a number of different
product, after loading of the nanotubes, can be provided as a
dry powder or in a liquid solution.
the halloysite nanotubes in the final product can be enclosed
polymer which slows the diffusion.
has found a niche in cosmetic nail varnish products and
recently announced a three year exclusive agreement with
Parisian varnish manufacturer Fiabila SA.
used in Sally Hansen
Credit: nerissa's ring
load the halloysite nanotubes with certain propriety products
which improve the adhesion and flow of the nail polish, Wemett
nanotubes are mixed into the Sally Hansen line of nail polishes
(manufactured by Fiabila for Coty), an extremely popular range
of nail products.
delivery system that halloysite presents gives NaturalNano an
edge, its CEO stressed: A lot of our customers are using
some type of clay today but it is not doing what they need it
to do, and that is our niche.
continues to develop products for new customers and explore new
market areas but, significantly, this takes time.
takes [companies] a long time to get to the point where
halloysite nanotubes become a commercial product, said
Wemett. It took about a year and a half for Fiabila to begin
using the nanotubes commercially and other Fortune 500
customers will have similar lead in times.
remains positive about the companys opportunities and
highlights the continued development of new products for new
customers at the companys research lab in its Rochester,
Targeting of cancer
hasnt just found itself an important niche in the
cosmetics industry but has also helped medical research make
strides forward in using
halloysite to target circulating tumour cells within the
metastasis is when a tumour spreads to different parts of the
body via circulating tumour cells which are released into the
bloodstream and flow to another part of the body where they
stick to a surface (such as organs).
It is a
serious development in
cancer and can prove fatal but halloysite could provide the
key to detection and eventual manipulation of cancer cells.
been developing some procedures to try and isolate and detect
tumour cells in the blood stream, Michael R. King,
associate professor of biomedical engineering at Cornell
University, US, told IM.
department at Cornell have been pioneering this process and a
article in medical journal Clinical Chemistry
brought the process to light.
In the interest of the advancement of science, professor
King has distributed a short seven minute video showing
the public and any other researchers how to use this
halloysite targeting with objects that be bought over the
counter. To watch the video click
circulating cancer cells is very difficult King explained:
The cancer cells are very very rare. In a millilitre of
blood you might have one or two cancer cells mixed in with a
million white blood cells and a billion red blood
To do this
King creates surfaces that mimic the interior surface of blood
cells which cancer cells adhere to in the body. The adhesion
does not come from halloysite but instead from a group of
proteins called selectins.
Halloysites benefit lies in that a layer of it applied to
the created surface basically repels the numerous white blood
cells that accumulate as the bodys immune system
this, it greatly increases the purity of tumour cells in the
sample and as such means that circulating tumour cells can be
targeted with ease.
opens up a whole range of options for research and practical
does not allow the accumulation of white blood cells it could
be used as biomaterial: Especially things that are
designed to be implanted, from catheters to stents. Anything
that is in contact with blood and is designed to be there for a
halloysite will help to prevent the immune system from
attacking the foreign body and so, could have a wide range of
applications in the medical industry, including in preventing
the body attacking implants.
halloysite nanotubes could also be packed with cancer drugs,
much like the NaturalNano cosmetic applications, that would
treat the cancer and have a slow controlled release.
But the most significant of these applications is the
manipulation of circulating cancer cells.
| Halloysite, the wonder material
cells are detected and isolated they could be targeted, King
outlined. This application requires much more research but
promising results have already occurred.
called trail (TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand) can be
adhered onto the surface that the cancer cells stick to and
programme the cancer cells to die (apoptosis is the name of
While this is
not strictly a cancer cure, it would prevent the cancer from
metastasising around the body and forming new cancers.
out that the pipeline for this is significant around the
decade mark but that the current mice experiments were
showing good results that may be published shortly. In several
years, human trials could begin, he said.