Study records video of colliding organic nanoparticles

This sight of "chemistry in motion" is expected to help nano scientists  develop new methods for drug delivery and demonstrate how an evolving imaging technique sheds light on a very tiny world.

Credit: GiroScience / Shutterstock.com

The video represents a rare example of particles in motion, where the dynamics present the coming together and merging of two bubbles into one. Initially, the nanoparticles join together separated by a membrane, before fusing together to form a larger particle.

The study employed liquid-cell transmission electron microscopy for directly imaging how micelles or polymer-based nanoparticles change over time. These nanoparticles are being developed in the laboratory of Professor Nathan C. Gianneschi, the lead author of the interdisciplinary study and investigates the intersection of nanotechnology and biomedicine, a department specializing in cancer and heart attack treatment.

In the study, organic particles bounce off each other in water; a few collide and merge, undergoing a physical transformation. The action is captured by passing an electron beam through the sample. The shadows cast by the tiny particles (the largest are only approximately 200 nm in diameter) are recorded directly by a camera below.  

This novel, powerful technique allowed the researchers to view the transformation of particles directly and describe their dynamics.

Lucas R. Parent, the first author of the paper and a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow in Gianneschi's research group, commented that the technique enables the molecular level visualization of how polymeric matter rearranges when the particles fuse into one object.

According to him, this is the first of many studies to come, in which scientists may employ this method to explore all types of dynamic phenomena in organic materials systems on the nanoscale.

Capturing the fundamental growth and evolution processes of these particles in motion will help us immensely in our work with synthetic materials and their interactions with biological systems.

Nathan C. Gianneschi, the Jacob and Rosaline Cohn Professor in the department of chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and in the departments of materials science and engineering and of biomedical engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering.

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