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Unlocking the Secrets of Nanoparticles

Roland Piquepaille writes "In "Keen Eye for the Nano Guys," Wired News writes that one of the top three world's most powerful microscopes is used today in England "to unlock the secrets of nanoparticles and their impact on human health." "The SuperSTEM microscope at Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire, England, is so sensitive that it requires a special building capable of protecting it from the vibrations caused by raindrops. Its resolution is so sharp that researchers can count atoms on its images." This overview contains more details about the potential dangers created by nanoparticles and how this microscope can help. It also includes photographs of — and obtained by — the SuperSTEM microscope."

One Response to “Unlocking the Secrets of Nanoparticles”

  1. Morgaine Says:

    Just geometry, or exposing more reactive sites?

    From the article:

    "The indications are that as particles get small, they become much more chemically reactive and, therefore, possibly much more toxic," said Dr. C. Vyvyan Howard, toxico-pathologist at the University of Liverpool and co-organizer of the conference.

    I hope that this alludes to more than merely the geometric fact that as the size of particles decreases, the number of surface molecules per unit mass increases. That wouldn't qualify as a world-shattering insight. :-)

    Or, does reactivity rise further through uncovering more sites on each surface molecule when the notional geometric curvature of the surface increases as the particle diameter decreases? In the limit the particle will be a single molecule with all its reactive sites exposed. However, surface curvature doesn't increase very rapidly until particles sizes start to approach that limit.

    It's worth noting that mechanochemical tools can use the latter effect to hide the reactivity of tool tips, by using negative surface curvature to expose little or no reactive sites at all until required. That's just another way of looking at sheathing, a role in which nanotubes will probably feature greatly.

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