Scientists may have found the key to mass produce nanoparticles, which are tiny particles that are 100,000 times smaller than the width of a strand of hair. This could revolutionize industry and scientific research.
Usually, nanoparticles are expensive and tricky to make. For example, gold nanoparticles, which can easily penetrate cell membranes without any damage, are expensive. A single milligram of gold particles costs about $80. This places the price of gold nanoparticles at $80,000 per gram. In contrast, a gram of pure, raw gold costs about $50.
Manufacturing a nanoparticle typically involves a technician in a chemistry lab mixing up a batch of chemicals by hand in traditional lab flasks and beakers. Now, though, researchers have created a new technique that relies on microfluidics, which is technology that manipulates tiny droplets of fluid in narrow channels.
The researchers 3D-printed tubes about 250 micrometers in diameter. Then, they built a parallel network of four of these tubes, side-by-side, and ran a combination of two non-mixing fluids through them. As the fluids fought to get out through the openings, they squeezed off tiny droplets. Each of these droplets acted as a micro-scale chemical reactor in which materials were mixed and nanoparticles were generated. In fact, each microfluidic tube can create millions of identical droplets that perform the same reaction.
The findings could be huge when it comes to creating these nanoparticles more efficiently and more cheaply.
The findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.
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