By Cameron Chai
Researchers at the University of Bologna in Unibo, Italy have discovered that the simplest way to enable a carbon nanotube to enter a cell membrane is at a flat angle against the surface of the membrane.
Siegfried Höfinger of Unibo stated that a flat entry provides a good energy balance. Tommaso Gallo, a young author of the study, stated that the nanotube could assume this position by itself when positioned adjacent to the membrane.
The scientists find it extremely challenging to handle such tiny objects. The Bologna chemists have come to this conclusion based on theoretical simulations and not from physical experiments. Mathematical representations prove that chemical and physical properties of the elements influence their behavior.
The research was conducted by Unibo jointly with the Universidade do Porto and the Michigan Technological University. The research proves that two different simulations based on two distinct theoretical techniques brought about the same response. Penetrating the membrane in a flat manner is favorable. The first simulation was dependent on the energy balance of the system and environmental free energy mechanism. The second simulation explains the properties of large molecules that remain immersed in solution.
The second simulation will be less precise than the first simulation but it can explain temporal and dynamic growth of the explained phenomenon. Researchers considered using short tubes of length 7 nm and thickness 5 nm which could be completely incorporated in the cell wall. It was observed that the longer tubes lie parallel to the surface in a longitudinal manner. Scientists revealed that small bundles of tubes attached to each other render low cell damage.
The physical properties of nanotubes, including thermal and electrical conductivity, make them suitable for transmitting data within the cell. These nanotubes can also be utilized to evaluate certain materials and to test specific techniques beyond cell membranes.