Gold Nanoparticles Wellcome Images

7 Amazing Ways Nanotechnology Is Changing The World

Tiny nanoparticles are a huge part of our lives, for better or for worse.
By Rebecca Boyle
Posted 11.14.2012 at 3:00 pm

“Everything, when miniaturized to the sub-100-nanometer scale, has new properties, regardless of what it is,” says Chad Mirkin, professor of chemistry (and materials science, engineering, medicine, biomedical engineering and chemical and biological engineering) at Northwestern University. This is what makes nanoparticles the materials of the future. They have strange chemical and physical properties compared to their larger-particle kin. The thing that matters about nanoparticles is their scale.

Nanoscale materials are used in everything from sunscreen to chemical catalysts to antibacterial agents–from the mundane to the lifesaving. “I spilled wine at a Christmas party once, and I was terrified. Red wine on a white carpet. And it wipes right up,” Mirkin recalled. “The reason is the nano-particulate used to coat the carpet keeps that material from absorbing into the carpet and staining the carpet.”

On a more sophisticated side, researchers are developing nanoscale assays used to screen for cancer, infection and even genes. Gold nanoparticles that have been doped with DNA can be used to detect bacteria in a person’s bloodstream, determining whether a patient has infection and what kind. Or they can be used to detect changes in a person’s immune system that reflect the presence of cancer. Nano-flares can measure the genetic content of cells, and light up–or flare–when they detect a specific cell of a doctor’s choosing, maybe cancer, stem cells or even the reaction to a small molecule used in a new drug.

Read more: 7 Amazing Ways Nanotechnology Is Changing The World | Popular Science.

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