Nanoparticle Researchers Hit Gold
There's gold in them thar nanoparticles: a team of researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia has been able to turn soybeans into gold nanoparticles, using nothing more than gold salts, water and soybeans. Gold nanoparticles, which many scientists see as playing an important role in technologies such as cancer detection, telecommunications and "smart" electronic devices, had been viewed with skepticism by some because of their perceived negative environmental impact.
The conversion process sounds remarkably simple: upon being submerged, the soybeans have one phytochemical pulled out by water, which is effective in reducing gold to nanoparticles, followed by a second one, that interacts with said nanoparticles to stabilize them. The net result is a low-impact production of uniform-sized nanoparticles.
"Typically, a producer must use a variety of synthetic or man-made chemicals to produce gold nanoparticles. In addition, to make the chemicals necessary for production, you need to have other artificial chemicals produced, creating an even larger, negative environmental impact. Our new process only takes what nature has made available to us and uses that to produce a technology that has already proven to have far-reaching impacts in technology and medicine," said Kattesh Katti, the project's lead scientist and a professor of radiology and physics at the university.
The scientists claim the process generates no waste or harmful byproducts; as Raghuraman Kannon, another scientist involved with the project, remarked: "We are solving a pollution problem at the very beginning stages of a developing technology. We don't anticipate any waste or byproducts from this new process that would not be biodegradable."
In addition to its perceived benefits in the field of cancer detection, the gold nanoparticle technology could also expand the use of nanotechnology in other medical fields and in the design of novel diagnostic/therapeutic applications. Katti and his colleagues recently filed a patent for the conversion process and have started a new company, Greennano Company, to take advantage of this new technology for a variety of applications.