Making the unreactive reactive

Nanoparticles have tremendous potential in biomedicine because they offer the ability to target drugs to the site of disease with the precision of a dart. Nanoparticles made from fluorinated polymers - the class of materials used to make non-stick coatings - are of particular interest, because their chemical inertness means that they are non-toxic.

But this inertness provides a special challenge to scientists who wish to attach biomedically active molecules to the nanoparticle surface. How do you bind a molecule to something that will not react?  Researchers from the Italian National Research Council and London Centre for Nanotechnology (Carlo Morasso) have resolved this conundrum. In a recent paper in Advanced Functional Materials they present a method to functionalize perfluoropolymer nanoparticles (PnP). Their novel approach uses a burst of ultra-violet light to crosslink surfactant molecules adsorbed to the nanoparticle core, thereby coating it in a robust polymeric shell. The shell is not inert, so biomedically active molecules can subsequently be bound to the nanoparticle surface.

The technique provides a clean way to make stable nanoparticles that can home in on diseased tissue.

This work has been published in Advanced Functional Materials (C. Morasso et al, Adv. Funct. Mater. Advance on-line publication 3 September 2010)

Morasso Fig 1