New technique produces tougher glass

September 8th, 2008 - 11:12 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 8 (IANS) Swiss researchers have developed a new technique to fabricate borosilicate glass nanoparticles, which could extend the range of applications in optical, biomedical and electronic fields.For example, used in microfluidic systems, these “Pyrex”-like nanoparticles are more stable when subjected to temperature fluctuations and harsh chemical environments than currently used nanoparticles made of polymers or silica glass.

Thanks to their large surface-to-volume ratio, nanoparticles have generated wide interest as potential transporters of antibodies, drugs, or chemicals for use in diagnostic tests, targeted drug therapy, or for catalysing chemical reactions.

Unfortunately, these applications are limited because nanoparticles disintegrate or bunch together when exposed to elevated temperatures, certain chemicals, or even de-ionized water.

Using borosilicate glass (the original “Pyrex”) instead of silica glass or polymers would overcome these limitations, but fabrication has been impossible to date due to the instability of the boron oxide precursor materials.

A group of Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) researchers, led by Martin Gijs, reported on a new procedure to fabricate and characterise borosilicate glass nanoparticles.

Besides, the new nanoparticles could also have applications in the production of photonic bandgap devices with high optical contrast, contrast agents for ultrasonic microscopy or chemical filtration membranes.

The report appeared in in this week’s advance online issue of Nature Nanotechnology.

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