With apologies for using the title of a Peggy Lee song from the 70s, this reference is to nanotechnology. There are continually more interesting findings as researchers move into smaller and smaller particle sizes. The question really is what happens when the ability to work at sizes as single digit nanometer particles and smaller becomes practical. To some extent, research is already at this point. What new properties will become known?
There has been concern that the absorption of heave metals can have a detrimental effect on the human body by becoming a cumulative toxic. Gold nanoparticles have been employed in various cancer cure Efforts since the early 2000s. A recent report [Ref. 1] indicates that gold, chemically inert, does not remain intact within cellular structures. In work done by researchers at the University of Paris, Sorbonne University, and the University of Strasbourg has revealed that gold nanoparticles ranging from 4nm to 22nm indicates these particles do not remain unchanged. They observed a transformation of the nanoparticles into leaf shaped structures. These finding may provide additional avenues of investigation for determining the means which the human body metabolizes the particles. This could change the overall evaluation of potential toxicity.
As mentioned in last month’s blog, researchers have been able to strengthen the structure of silver without diminishing it conductive properties by “implanting” copper atoms at defect along the grain boundaries of the silver. The maximum strengthening appears to occur when the grain boundaries are 7nm apart. [Ref. 2]
There has been a number of articles on two-dimensional materials, like graphene. An article in Nature Electronics [Ref. 3] describes the development of heterostructures form by stacking layers of different two-dimensional materials that are possible due to Van der Waals forces. This particular application create memristors with good thermal stability.
This bring the discussion to the progress in Atomically Precise Manufacturing (APM). From Wikipedia, “APM is the production of materials, structures, devices, and finished goods in a manner such that every atom has a specific location relative to the other atoms …” [Ref. 4] In 2017, the American Chemical Society has a report [Ref. 5] that indicates over 100 molecules of noble metals have been created and are able to de manufactured. The molecules demonstrate different properties that are different from the nanomaterials. The research effort has grown to the point where there is a conference on Atomically Precise Nanochemistry. [Ref. 6]
So, Nanotechnology is not the bottom. There is also work being on electron spin in the quantum realm. The one consideration that needs to move forward as the APM and other atomic level research progresses in the issue of “safety”. The development of a “white” paper on the challenges for the manufacture, storage, and handling of these even smaller particles has been initiated with the anticipated release of the recommendation late in 2020. This effort will be a complementary effort to the existing Nano-Safety “white” paper from 2007. [Ref. 7]