Alternate Materials

Many are heralding the coming age of nanoparticles and nanotechnology. A new development may change how we make these wonder particles.
A team from the University of Florida has found a way to use gold in crystals grown by light to create nanoparticles, widening the path for nanoparticle use in biotechnology.
Photo by The University of Florida
One way of making nanoparticles is through palsmon-driven synthesis: being “grown” in crystal formations with special use of light. However, silver is needed to control this process. That limits use in biotechnology. “How does light actually play a role in the synthesis? [This knowledge] was not well developed,” said David Wei, an associate professor of chemistry who led the research team. “Gold was the model system to demonstrate this.” Gold is far more desirable than silver due to its malleability, non-reaction with oxygen, and conductivity. Therefore, this makes for better nanoparticles, especially when the particles are intended for use in the human body.

Golden Opportunities

Polyvinylpyrrolidone, or PVP is the substance which enables the use of gold. This is a substance commonly found in pharmaceutical tablets. When used in the plasmon-driven synthesis, the substance allows scientists to better control the growth of crystals.
The research, published in Nature Materials, has shown that PVP has the potential to relay light-generated “hot” electrons to a gold surface to grow the crystals. This is the first research to show the use of plasmonic synthesis to make high-yield gold nanoprisms. Even more, the team showed the use of visible-range and low-power light as the light source in conducting the experiment.
This, coupled with nanoparticles being used in solar photovoltaic devices, now allows the possibility of harnessing solar energy for chemical synthesis, to make nanomaterials, or for other general applications in chemistry.

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