Using Soybeans to Create Nanoparticles

Nanoparticles are all the rage for a variety of different applications, ranging from treatments for cancer to use in automobile sensors. Trouble is, the manmade nanomorsels have been raising concern about side effects in humans and the environment.

A University of Missouri research team has devised a method for creating nanoparticles that don’t have negative side effects. And the work has garnered the scientists international recognition.

The team found that when you submerge gold salts into water and then add soybeans, gold nanoparticles are created. The procedure is simple but can be used in creating very complex nanoengineered components.

The beauty of this green process, created by the head Missouri researcher Kattesh Katti, is that it doesn’t involve the use of any synthetic chemicals, so no toxic waste is generated.

The versatile midwestern soybean – first used
for food and feed, then for fuel, and now they
are also promising nanotech building blocks.

The water pulls out a phytochemical from the soybeans that is effective in reducing the gold to nanoparticles.

Another phytochemical from the soybean also interacts with the nanoparticles and helps stabilize them so that they don’t fuse with nearby particles. The research work was supported by the National Cancer Institute.

The soybean-inspired extraction is just one of the ways by which life sciences and new engineering processes will converge over the next several years. This is likely to open a broad range of opportunities for startups and large companies looking to reduce their carbon footprint and boost energy efficiency across business units.

Another notable effort is underway some 1,500 miles to the west of Missouri. Researchers at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University have started putting the micromachinery of living cells to work to create nanostructures inside of a living cell.

More specifically, the focus of the research is to use what is known as structural DNA nanotechnology, which gathers up molecular building blocks of DNA and allows for other different chemical components to be wrapped into the assembled structure.

What this work promises to do is overcome some of the shortcomings of having to chemically synthesize all of the material used in DNA nanotechnology from scratch. To date, it has strictly been a test tube science, where researchers have developed many toolboxes for making different DNA nanostructures to attach and organize other molecules, including nanoparticles and other biomolecules.

The researchers recognize that they’re still at the early stages of this work and need to test the tolerance limits for how much artificial DNA can be handled by the cellular machinery. No doubt there is a great deal of interest in this line of research, which could lead to some very intriguing opportunities. Lee Bruno

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