Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Making nanoparticles in artificial cells

Two new construction manuals are now available for the world's smallest lamps. Based on these protocols, scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces have tailor-made nanoparticles that can be used as position lights on cell proteins and, possibly in the future as well, as light sources for display screens or for optical information technology.

The researchers produced cadmium sulphide particles in microscopically small membrane bubbles. Depending on which of the construction manuals they follow, the particles can be 4 or 50 nanometres in size.

Because the membrane bubbles have the same size as living cells, the scientists' work also provides an indication as to how nanostructures could arise in nature. (Small, published online: June 8, 2009/DOI: 10.1002/smll.200900560)

Cells and microorganisms are absolute masters when it comes to working in the smallest possible dimensions. Like particularly efficient micro-factories, they produce particles and structures from inorganic material, for example pieces of chalk, that are only a few nanometres in size, that is, millionths of a millimetre. Cells have two different factors to thank for this capability. First, they have peptides, a biological tool at their disposal that may shape the chalk into a desired form. Second, the fact that they are very small themselves is convenient: the chalk particles cannot grow boundlessly - the end is reached when the calcium carbonate, the building block of chalk, runs out in the cell.

"We used the fact that cells represent a closed reaction container as a model for the synthesis of nanoparticles," says Rumiana Dimova. Her group at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces studies membranes - the cell envelope. The scientist and her colleagues form bubbles that are around 50 micrometres in size from lecithin membranes, which are similar to biological membranes. Like cells, membrane bubbles - or vesicles as scientists refer to them - also provide a closed reaction container. The scientists load the membrane bubbles with one of two reactants for the nanoparticles.

From this point, the researchers have developed two different sets of protocols. In one case, they produce bubbles loaded with one of the two reactants, sodium sulphide or cadmium chloride. The scientists then bring the bubbles with the different loads together and fuse two vesicles to form a bigger vesicle - this is done by subjecting the bubble cocktail to a short but very strong electrical pulse. The electric shock fuses the membranes of two adjacent bubbles.

In many cases, this results in the fusion of two bubbles containing different reactants. These then react to form cadmium sulphide, which is not water soluble and thus precipitates in the form of nanoparticles. "Because the reactants are only present to a limited extent in the fused bubbles, the particles only grow to a size of four nanometres," explains Rumiana Dimova. The scientists were able to track the entire process directly under the microscope because they had added different fluorescent molecules to the membranes of the differently loaded vesicles. The researchers were also able to see the nanoparticles forming as the particles shone like tiny lamps.

In the second process, the researchers only produce vesicles with one of the reactants. When the vesicles have formed, unlike in the first procedure, the researchers do not remove them from the production chamber. Instead, the bubbles remain attached to their substrate via small membrane channels, like balloons tied to strings, and stand in a solution that is the same as the one inside them. The researchers working with Rumiana Dimova then altered this situation: they substituted the solution with the first ingredient for the nanoparticles with a second component. This causes no change inside the vesicles at first. The second ingredient only creeps gradually between the substrate and membrane into the channel and to the vesicle. In the vesicle, where the other ingredient is already waiting, the nanoparticles grow again - this time to a size of 50 nanometres.

"With our method, we succeeded for the first time in producing particles with a certain diameter in vesicles whose size corresponds to that of cells," says Rumiana Dimova. Previously, biologists thought that cells depended on the help of peptides for the synthesis of nanoparticles. However, as Rumiana Dimova and her colleagues have discovered, it can also be done without them.

Original work:

Peng Yang, Reinhard Lipowsky, and Rumiana Dimova
Nanoparticle Formation in Giant Vesicles: Synthesis in Biomimetic Compartments
Small, published online, 8 June, 2009/DOI: 10.1002/smll.200900560

Dr. Rumiana Dimova | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>