Nanotechnology is the latest interdisciplinary field of science that operates on microscopic scale, down to atoms and molecules. The new science is young, and the scientific community has not even had a single clear definition as to what nanotechnology is. However, it does not prevent researchers to make one discovery after another, exploring the properties, behavior, and possible applications of nanoparticles.
As recently as 2013, scientists have brought to the world three important messages about their most recent experiments with nanoparticles. A team of scientists from Stanford University announced the creation of nanoparticles that can purify water from contamination. The particles were named “nano-cleaning agents” for their unique ability to not only clean, but also disinfect and desalinate water. Such particles have been known to exist before, but they had some problems, the scientists could not remove the particles from water after cleaning. However, nano-cleaning agents developed by Stanford’s team have special magnetic properties, making it easy to remove them from the water using magnetic separation techniques.
‘Magic cleaners’ have a synthetic core, which is very susceptible to magnetism. After getting into contaminated water, they begin a chaotic movement, attaching themselves to molecules of heavy metals and other pollutants, and also kill bacteria. Needless to say that this new method of water purification will help solving many global water purification problems in the future. For example, the problem of increasingly scarce clean fresh water.
Another equally promising discovery has been made in human health. Scientists from the Polytechnic Institute (Virginia, USA) were able to observe for the first time the process of destruction of cancer cells by nanoparticles. The positive healing effect of some of the nanoparticles in medical science has long been known, but the size of most of these particles did not allow to observe them “in action”. To solve this problem, scientists have created a technology that allows visualization of the movement of these nanoparticles at the atomic level. Scientists were amazed to see how mobile and active these particles are.
In particular, the scientists were able to observe the effect of gold star-shaped nanoparticles of the size of a virus, which are effective in the fight against cancer. These particles are introduced into the human body and accumulate in the tumor, and then under infrared radiation the particles are heated, and the malignant cells are destroyed. From now on, the behavior of drug nanoparticles in the human body can be studied in detail. It is not too far in the future when, instead of doctors and pills, each of us will be provided with “nanomedicines”, which will operate independently, repairing any issues within our body.
Also recently, scientists could observe another important process – the process of self-assembly of nanoparticles. The particles were placed under intense bombardment by electrons, resulting in elimination of repulsion of nanoparticles which led to their assembly into a long chain. The scientists note that the study of self-assembly of particles can lead to the creation of new materials with completely unique and amazing properties. The study author is Yuzi Liu from the Argonne National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy.