Tiny Tech #5: Gold Nanoparticles: Not Just Tiny!

Today from the world of Tiny Tech:

What would happen if you were to take a gold coin and cut it into two pieces, and then into four, and kept going until you had very tiny pieces consisting of perhaps a thousand gold atoms each?  Well, apart from making your friends and family question your sanity, you would find that these small pieces – called gold nanoparticles – do not look or act like the original gold coin.  For example, the nanoparticles are purple red in color, because they are so small that they have lost much of their metallic character. 

And gold nanoparticles have other special properties which make them potentially useful in cancer research.    They can be used to detect cancer cells in the body, and to deliver medicines directly to those cells and kill them.  

But to make gold nanoparticles really useful, it is necessary to control their properties as the nanoparticles are formed.  Scientists have found that they can do this by changing the chemical recipe, so that they can make the nanoparticles not only with specific sizes, but also with specific shapes, such as spheres, rods, cages, and so on.  And changing their shapes does change their properties, including their color.

So all gold doesn’t glitter, but that’s ok:  nanoparticles are creating their own scientific gold rush. 

Tiny Tech is made possible by the National Science Foundation and WUFT.  To learn more about Tiny Tech, go to tinytechradio.org.

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