Their approach offers a significant advantage over routine methods for analyzing gold nanoparticles because it can determine whether the nanoparticles exist in a both right-handed and left-handed configuration, a phenomenon called chirality. Determining a nanoparticle's chirality is an important step toward developing them as chiral catalysts — tools that are highly sought-after by the pharmaceutical industry. Their results are published online at ACS Nano.
Pictured above is the crystal structure of a pair of gold nanoparticles that exist in a right-handed (bottom) and left-handed (top) configuration. These nanoparticles hold great promise as a chiral catalyst—a tool highly sought-after by the pharmaceutical industry.gol
Many drugs on the market today contain at least one molecule that is chiral. Often only one of the configurations, or isomers, is effective in the body. In some cases, the other isomer may even be harmful. A striking example is the drug thalidomide, which consisted of two isomers: one of which helped pregnant women control nausea while the other caused damage to the developing fetus. In an effort to create safer, more effective drugs, drug manufacturers are looking for ways to produce purer substances that contain only the left- or right-handed isomer.
Huifeng Qian, a fourth-year graduate student working with Jin, created a gold nanoparticle that has the potential to catalyze chemical reactions that will produce one isomer rather than the other. The nanoparticle is comprised of precisely 38 gold atoms and measures a mere 1.4 nanometers. Qian worked diligently for nearly a year to grow the nanoparticles into high-quality crystals so that he could study their structure using x-ray crystallography.
"Growing a pure crystal from nanoparticles is very challenging, and you may not even be able to get a crystal at all," said Jin, an assistant professor of chemistry in CMU's Mellon College of Science. "In the nanoparticle community, the crystal structures of only three nanoparticles have been reported."
In Jin's case, x-ray crystallography revealed that the gold nanoparticle is chiral. Chemists typically probe the internal chiral structure of gold nanoparticles using a technique called circular dichoism spectroscopy. When pure chiral molecules are exposed to circularly polarized light, each isomer absorbs the light differently, resulting in a unique — and of opposite sign — spectrum for each isomer. The process of creating the gold nanoparticles, however, often results in a 50/50 mix of each isomer, known as racemates.
"Because the spectrum is of opposite sign for each isomer, they cancel each other out and the net optical response is zero. This makes circular dichoism (CD) spectroscopy useless when it comes to determining the chirality of gold nanoparticles in 50/50 mixtures," said Gil, associate research professor of chemistry and director of the Department of Chemistry's NMR Facility.
Since Jin couldn't use circular dichoism spectroscopy, Gil was able to use NMR to help Jin distinguish between his gold nanoparticles' left- and right-handed isomers.
NMR spectroscopy takes advantage of the physical phenomenon wherein some nuclei wobble and spin like tops, emitting and absorbing a radio frequency signal in a magnetic field. By observing the behavior of these spinning nuclei, scientists can piece together the chemical structure of the compound.
In 1957, scientists observed that the hydrogen atoms of a freely rotating methylene (CH2) group produced two different frequencies if they were close to a chiral center. Jin's gold nanoparticles, which have a chiral core, are cushioned by several chemical groups, including freely rotating methylene groups. Gil reasoned that the nanoparticles' chiral core should induce the methylene group's two hydrogen atoms to give off different frequencies, a phenomenon known as diastereotopicity.
Gil and Jin compared the NMR signal from the hydrogen atoms in a non-chiral gold nanoparticle with the NMR signal from the hydrogen atoms in chiral gold nanoparticle. The non-chiral nanoparticle's NMR spectrum did not reveal any differences, but the chiral nanoparticle's NMR spectrum revealed two different hydrogen signals, providing a simple and efficient way of telling whether the particle is chiral or not, even for a 50/50 mixture of isomers.
"NMR is an alternative — and very efficient — method for providing useful information about how the atoms in nanoparticles form the molecular structure. Because NMR can determine chirality in some cases, it can readily be used to determine the purity of a nanoparticle mixture," Jin said.
In current work, Jin and Qian are striving to turn their 50/50 mixture of right- and left-handed isomers into a pure solution of one or the other.
By: Jocelyn Duffy, email@example.com, 412-268-9982
Jocelyn Duffy | EurekAlert!
New design improves performance of flexible wearable electronics
23.06.2017 | North Carolina State University
Plant inspiration could lead to flexible electronics
22.06.2017 | American Chemical Society
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
27.06.2017 | Information Technology
27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy