Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Reproducing nature's chemistry: Researchers alter molecular properties in a new way

Bartosz Grzybowski
Bartosz Grzybowski

Abstract:
In their search for molecules with certain characteristics, chemists have produced millions of new, increasingly complex synthetic materials by altering molecules' chemical structures.

Reproducing nature's chemistry: Researchers alter molecular properties in a new way

Evanston, IL | Posted on August 29th, 2013

Taking cues from nature, Northwestern University researchers have recently tested a new method for achieving the molecular properties they seek: by changing the geometry of the surface to which molecules are bound.

"For years chemists have been making molecules to solve problems — each one more synthetically complicated than the last — but we still haven't come close to achieving what nature can do with much simpler chemistry,'" said Bartosz A. Grzybowski, Kenneth Burgess Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Chemistry at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. "Nature's most complex component of life, the protein, is made from only 21 simple amino acids. This research explores the idea that it's not the molecule you have that's important, it is how it interacts with its environment."

Using this idea, the researchers developed a technique in which a single type of molecule is placed on nanoparticles with two different regions of curvature. Although the molecules are atomically identical, they demonstrate unique chemical properties depending on what region of curvature they are bound to.

The researchers began by affixing molecules of a carboxylic acid at various points on several gold nanoparticles, some as small as five nanometers in diameter. Each nanoparticle possessed a different geometry. On nanoparticles exhibiting a greater curvature, the molecules were naturally spaced father apart; on nanoparticles with more gradual curvature, they were closer together.

The differences in curvature influences the distance between the molecules, making it possible for the researchers to induce so-called "patchiness" on cylindrical- and dumbbell-shaped nanoparticles. Essentially, the molecules can "feel" each other through repulsive electrostatic interactions and, as the carboxylic acids are depronated, the difficulty in adding more charges onto the nanoparticles is controlled by how crowded the molecules are. These "patchy" nanoparticles can interact and self-assemble directionally, mimicking chemical molecular bonds — and, the researchers found, altering when the charge of these attached molecules changes.

"Changing molecular properties by altering environments instead of molecular structure could free scientists to accomplish more with a smaller library of already existing molecules, and could offer alternatives to chemical processes that often require toxic chemicals," said David Walker, a graduate student in McCormick's Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and the paper's first author.

The curvature phenomenon is specific to the nano-scale, where most of the chemistry in biological systems is performed, and begins to fail for nanoparticles above 10 nanometers in diameter, the researchers said. "Larger particles have curvatures that are just too subtle for the molecules to feel the effect — similar to how humans might perceive the Earth to be flat, even though we now know better," Walker said.

The researchers are currently working to extend the work to other classes of molecules that could be beneficial for catalysis and energy purposes.

Other authors of the paper are Igal Szeifer, Christina Enroth-Cugell Professor of Biomedical Engineering and professor of chemistry, chemical and biological engineering, and professor of medicine; graduate student Emily Leitsch; and postdoctoral researcher Rikkert Nap, all of Northwestern.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Megan Fellman

847-491-3115

Copyright © Northwestern University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related Links

A paper describing the research, “Geometric Curvature Controls the Chemical Patchiness and Self-Assembly of Nanoparticles,” was published August 18 in Nature Nanotechnology:

Related News Press

News and information

Enhancing the sensing capabilities of diamonds with quantum properties: A simple method can give diamonds the special properties needed for quantum applications such as sensing magnetic fields September 24th, 2017

Quantum twisted Loong confirms the physical reality of wavefunctions September 23rd, 2017

Application of air-sensitive semiconductors in nanoelectronics: 2-D semiconductor gallium selenide in encapsulated nanoelectronic devices September 22nd, 2017

Researchers set time limit for ultrafast perovskite solar cells September 22nd, 2017

Chemistry

Copper catalyst yields high efficiency CO2-to-fuels conversion: Berkeley Lab scientists discover critical role of nanoparticle transformation September 20th, 2017

Chemical hot spots: Scanning tunneling microscopy measurements identify active sites on catalyst surfaces September 7th, 2017

More durable, less expensive fuel cells: University of Delaware researchers have developed a new technology that could speed up the commercialization of fuel cell vehicles September 5th, 2017

Research shows how DNA molecules cross nanopores: Study could inform biosensors, manufacturing, and more September 5th, 2017

Self Assembly

Physicists gain new insights into nanosystems with spherical confinement: Enormous potential for the targeted delivery of pharmaceutical agents and the creation of tailored nanoparticles July 27th, 2017

Oddball enzyme provides easy path to synthetic biomaterials May 17th, 2017

Nanotubes that build themselves April 14th, 2017

Nanocages for gold particles: what is happening inside? March 16th, 2017

Discoveries

Quantum twisted Loong confirms the physical reality of wavefunctions September 23rd, 2017

Application of air-sensitive semiconductors in nanoelectronics: 2-D semiconductor gallium selenide in encapsulated nanoelectronic devices September 22nd, 2017

Researchers set time limit for ultrafast perovskite solar cells September 22nd, 2017

DNA triggers shape-shifting in hydrogels, opening a new way to make 'soft robots' September 21st, 2017

Announcements

Enhancing the sensing capabilities of diamonds with quantum properties: A simple method can give diamonds the special properties needed for quantum applications such as sensing magnetic fields September 24th, 2017

Quantum twisted Loong confirms the physical reality of wavefunctions September 23rd, 2017

Application of air-sensitive semiconductors in nanoelectronics: 2-D semiconductor gallium selenide in encapsulated nanoelectronic devices September 22nd, 2017

Researchers set time limit for ultrafast perovskite solar cells September 22nd, 2017

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals/White papers

Enhancing the sensing capabilities of diamonds with quantum properties: A simple method can give diamonds the special properties needed for quantum applications such as sensing magnetic fields September 24th, 2017

Quantum twisted Loong confirms the physical reality of wavefunctions September 23rd, 2017

Application of air-sensitive semiconductors in nanoelectronics: 2-D semiconductor gallium selenide in encapsulated nanoelectronic devices September 22nd, 2017

Researchers set time limit for ultrafast perovskite solar cells September 22nd, 2017

Energy

Researchers set time limit for ultrafast perovskite solar cells September 22nd, 2017

Copper catalyst yields high efficiency CO2-to-fuels conversion: Berkeley Lab scientists discover critical role of nanoparticle transformation September 20th, 2017

Solar-to-fuel system recycles CO2 to make ethanol and ethylene: Berkeley Lab advance is first demonstration of efficient, light-powered production of fuel via artificial photosynthesis September 19th, 2017

Insect eyes inspire new solar cell design from Stanford August 31st, 2017

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project