Northwestern Team Captures Collision and Fusion of Organic Nanoparticles for First Time

For the first time, researchers from the Northwestern University research team have captured the collision and fusing of organic nanoparticles on video.

This unrivalled view of “chemistry in motion” will assist nanoscientists at the Northwestern University to develop innovative drug delivery techniques and also to show to scientists around the world the way an emerging imaging method sheds light on a very tiny world.

This is a rare instance of particles in motion, the dynamics of which are similar to two bubbles approaching each other and fusing into one—initially, they join and include a membrane between them; however eventually, they get fused and transform into one huge bubble.

I had an image in my mind, but the first time I saw these fusing nanoparticles in black and white was amazing, to me, it’s literally a window opening up to this world you have always known was there, but now you’ve finally got an image of it. I liken it to the first time I saw Jupiter’s moons through a telescope. Nothing compares to actually seeing,

Professor Nathan C. Gianneschi, leader of the interdisciplinary research, intersection of biomedicine and nanotechnology.

Gianneschi is the Jacob and Rosaline Cohn Professor in the department of chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and is also affiliated with the departments of materials science and engineering and of biomedical engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering.

The research, which will be published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society on November 17, 2017, includes videos of disparate nanoparticle fusion occurrences.

The researchers adopted liquid-cell transmission electron microscopy for directly imaging the modification of polymer-based nanoparticles (i.e. micelles)—that have been developed in Gianneschi’s lab for the treatment of heart attacks and cancer—over time. The innovative and powerful method allowed the researchers to directly image the transformation of the particles and to characterize their dynamics.

We can see on the molecular level how the polymeric matter rearranges when the particles fuse into one object, this is the first study of many to come in which researchers will use this method to look at all kinds of dynamic phenomena in organic materials systems on the nanoscale.

Lucas R. Parent, National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellow in Gianneschi’s research group and the first author of the paper.

In the research, organic particles in water were imaged bouncing off one another, with some colliding and merging, going through a physical change. The team imaged the activity by flashing an electron beam into the sample. The shadows cast by the tiny particles, where the largest ones have a diameter of just 200 nm, are directly captured by a camera positioned underneath.

We’ve observed classical fusion behavior on the nanoscale,” stated Gianneschi, a member of Northwestern’s International Institute for Nanotechnology. “Capturing the fundamental growth and evolution processes of these particles in motion will help us immensely in our work with synthetic materials and their interactions with biological systems.”

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