In recent years chemists and materials scientists have enthusiastically searched for ways to make materials with nanoscale pores -- channels comparable in size to organic molecules -- that could be used, among other things, to separate proteins by size. Recently Cornell University researchers developed a method to "self-assemble" such structures by using organic polymers to guide the formation of ceramic structures.
Transmission electron micrographs show, at left, the regular pattern of hexagonal channels in the ceramic material, and at right, the smooth distribution of iron oxide particles (dark spots) within the ceramic matrix.
Now they have advanced another step by incorporating tiny magnetic particles of iron oxide into the walls of porous ceramic structures in a simple "one-pot" self-assembly. Such materials could be used to separate proteins tagged with magnetic materials, or in catalytic processes.
"This enables access, for the first time, to protein-separation technology based on a combination of size exclusion with magnetically assisted separation," explains Ulrich Wiesner, professor of materials science at Cornell, in Ithaca, N.Y., lead investigator for the research. One application could be the separation of a single protein out of the thousands found in blood serum.
Bill Steele | EurekAlert!
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