Scientists at the Penn State University (PSU) have discovered an innovative method for in-depth profiling of molecules. Molecular profiling is essential to evaluate the surfaces of ultra-thin materials such as nanoparticles, human tissues and biological cells. This kind of study is vital for applications in drug delivery and treatment of neurological diseases and injury.
The research team, which was headed by Barbara Garrison who is the Shapiro Professor of Chemistry and the HOD of the Chemistry department at PSU have discovered that bombarding the ultra thin surface with hollow spherical molecules comprising 60 carbon atoms is an effective method to perform molecular depth profiling. When these hollow molecules or ‘Bucky balls’ as they are referred to as a tribute to American scientist, Buckminster Fuller, hit the surface of the material they break up the molecules into smaller pieces thus allowing scientists to see through the surface. In certain cases, the material may have sub-layers of another molecule inside. This method has also been tested by another research group in Taiwan.
However, the other research group also tried using argon which is another chemical element with low energy as a follow up to the Bucky balls. This was done due to the fact that bombarding the material surface with Bucky balls alone led uneven distribution of molecules thus making it difficult for scientists to study. When the surface was further hit with low energy argon it evened the surface and made it feasible for analysis. However, they also think that in cases where the Bucky balls have the right energies argon is not required. Molecular profiling has great scope in various areas where the analysis of ultra thin materials is required.