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Author Interview: Inorganic Nanoparticles: Synthesis, Applications & Perspectives

by Editor1 last modified December 21, 2010 - 12:58

CRC Press has released Inorganic Nanoparticles: Synthesis, Applications, and Perspectives, a State-of-the-Art on worldwide research to speed commercialization of inorganic nanoparticles for novel materials, device fabrication, and even large-scale production. In the book, some two dozen experts discuss the impact of inorganic nanoparticles work on automotive, energy storage, drug delivery, semiconductors, solar, and even art and conservation. talks with the co-authors of Inorganic Nanoparticles: Synthesis, Applications, and Perspectives.

Author Interview: Inorganic Nanoparticles: Synthesis, Applications & Perspectives

  • Dr. Claudia Altavilla is a research fellow in the Department of Chemical and Food Engineering, University of Salerno, Italy. 
  • Dr. Enrico Ciliberto is a full professor of inorganic chemistry at the University of Catania and president of the Cultural Heritage Technologies Faculty at the University of Syracuse, Italy.
The duo assembled some of today’s best minds in the areas of synthesis and characterization of inorganic nanostructured materials for their book.

Their intent in editing Inorganic Nanoparticles: Synthesis, Applications, and Perspectives is to deliver to the reader a ‘state-of-the-art’ on research to speed commercialization of inorganic nanoparticles for many diverse uses, including advances novel materials, device fabrication, and even large-scale production. The volume presents contributions for more than two dozen top researchers, to provide knowledgeable deep dives across a wide variety of industries.

Download a Free Sample Chapter from this Volume:   Magnetic Nanoparticles for Information Storage and Applications
by Natalie A. Frey and Shouheng Sun, both of Brown University

The Interview Inorganic nanoparticles are quite intriguing materials. Can you briefly explain to lay persons and fellow researchers in your view what inorganic nanoparticles are, and how many types of professionals are interested in them?

Altavilla: Inorganic nanoparticles are made by inorganic compounds, such as metals, metal oxides, chalcogenides etc. Their unique optical, magnetic, electric or mechanical properties are shown only in this range of dimensions and disappear when the particle size is shifted in the micrometers range.

For these reason, today nanoparticles are extensively studied for applications in the most important fields of our life: energy, biomedicine, conservation of cultural heritage, electronic devices etc. The main aim of our book is not only to explore the correlation between properties and size, but also to evaluate the wide range of realistic applications of these materials in the near future. NASA’s M. Meyyappan wrote the preface for your book and he told me “there is no other book with this vision for nanoparticles.” He also commended your book for gathering an ”excellent group of contributors [for] a very good application oriented book.” High praise from another our inorganic nanotechnology authors. Tell us why fellow researchers will find this volume valuable.

Obviously, a special thank is reserved to Dr Meyyappan who first believed in us and in this ambitious project.

Ciliberto: This work required a lot of time -- not only to organize the book structure but also to propose a new and appealing approach to the world of nanoparticles.

The real challenge was to keep touch with all the authors…a lot of e-mails to persuade important scientists to give their contribution to this book. Today, after an inestimable amount of coffee and a lot of hours of lost sleep, the target was reached. We are overjoyed for this result. It would have been impossible without the attentive and industrious work of Nora Konopka and her CRC staff

Each chapter, written by scientists of great renown in their field, is self consistent and, at the same time, reflects the philosophy with which the book was conceived and realized i.e., give the opportunity to the reader to delve into any topic without needing to read other parts of the book.

Inside Diverse Applications for Inorganic Nanoparticles Let’s have some fun and go through some highlights from the many chapters that highlight other practical, industrial uses of inorganic nanoparticles, and research done in these areas.

Solar Energy and Energy Storage Let’s start with a look a how do solar energy and energy storage devices benefit from properties of nanomaterials?

Altavilla: The increase in worldwide energy demand, the environmental impact of oil and coal and the debated question of nuclear energy are becoming crucial aspects for the future of our planet. The use of “alternative energies” is one of the possible solutions to these complicated problems.

Solar radiation is an inexhaustible and renewable form of energy and inorganic nanoparticles, which are ready to revolutionize solar-cell technology, can reduce costs, increase performance, and lower the environmental impacts with respect to the current solar photovoltaic devices based on silicon technology. Aside from new solar cell technologies, there is a growing necessity of the development of efficient energy storage devices.

In both these cases, inorganic nanoparticles are the key to solve issues and challenges for the development of fuel cell and rechargeable batteries. These aspects are extensively treated in the book in several chapters by renowned experts.

Nanomedicine Several chapters of your book are devoted to quantum dots for bioimaging, nanoparticle based cancer therapy, drug delivery, and antibacterial agents. What will the impact of nanotechnology have on these areas in the future?

Altavilla: Nowadays, standard therapeutic methods for the treatment of different diseases use the systemic distribution of drugs. The main problems with this approach arise due to the scarce specificity of drugs that may reach with difficulty the target organ with the required level of the drug in the body.

The introduction of inorganic nanoparticles not only for treatments but also for diagnosis of terrible diseases could revolutionize these approaches with the development of efficient, personalized and controlled release as well as the targeting of drug delivery systems. No less important is the use of inorganic nanoparticles in the prevention of hospital-acquired infections which are also one of the leading causes of death. Recent developments in magnetic drug delivery, imaging, hyperthermia for cancer therapy and antimicrobial textiles are the topics of 4 chapters written by skilled scientists. These are only few examples of the exciting possibilities offered by nanoparticles to bio-medicine.

Art and Conservation Both of you have involvement in Cultural Heritage, and we worked on Michelangelo’s David in Florence, and St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. How has nanotechnology changed the way we restore and conserve such masterpieces of art?

Ciliberto: Actually it has been demonstrated that nanotechnologies were unconsciously used in the past to make particular objects, and we mention many examples of ancient nanotechnology in Chapter One of our book.

For instance, there is evidence that nanotechnology was used to decorate pottery in Greece during VI century B.C., and use of sub-micrometric objects were consciously done even in the Middle Age. For example in St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, one of the most impressive characteristic of the indoor mosaics is the wide use of gilded glassy ‘tesserae’. The total area of the gilded mosaics is bigger than 2,000 square meters and nowadays it appears exactly the same with a beautiful shining gold color. In order to save money but, at the same time, to render the real gold look, Venetian glassy makers used gold layers of only few hundreds of nanometers thick embedded in a glassy matrix to preserve the metal lamina by the external contamination and by the physical degradation.

Nowadays, we are beginning to use nanotechnologies to restore and to preserve works of art. In the first case the use of ‘nanolimes’, formed by calcium hydroxide or strontium hydroxide nanoparticles, resulted in a real revolution of the consolidation techniques of renders, frescos and stones. In Chapter 2, we discuss this kind of application and report results in many real cases.

We also discuss how conservation of artistic or archaeological artefacts can be performed with the aid of inorganic nanoparticles. The use of titanium dioxide to remove environmental pollution from atmosphere is treated in the chapter 15. This approach seems to us extremely important for the museum indoor areas where precious relics or important works of art are exposed. By controlling the atmosphere composition and the levels of aggressive agents it is possible to guarantee a longer life for these objects.

Automotive You also have many examples from all over the automotive industry – from fuel sources, energy storage and even the interior materials. Could you discuss a few of those?

Altavilla: The future of the automotive industry will be characterized by the change of fuel used and of course by the use of different kind of energies.

In the case of electric engine, for instance, many electronic problems are trivial and already resolved but a real challenge is represented by the ‘in situ’ generation of the electric energy and by the cheap and efficient storage of the energy or of the non-conventional fuel. In the first case, the fuel cell technologies can represent an answer for the next future and the nanotechnologies are extremely useful in order to obtain this result. We describe those areas in Chapters 7 and 17.

Ciliberto: Moreover, in the field of energy storage the development of new generation batteries with high power, low volume and low weight, represent a crucial question for making a functional electric car, which we highlight in Chapter 9.

And finally the development of novel nanoadditives for lubricants can reduce frictional resistance, protect the moving surfaces against wear, reduce heating, improve fuel economy, and minimize pollution to environment. Prominent among these additives are the inorganic fullerene-like (IF) nanoparticles of WS2 and MoS2, which were first reported more than a decade ago by Tenne and are the topics of Chapter 16.

There is also the real possibility that some strategic devices of the car, such as the inner surfaces, would be coated by particular inorganic nanoparticles in order to obtain an aseptic environment.

Cosmetics You also address the cosmetics industry. That sector was an early advocate of nanotechnologies for creams and sunscreen, but what can you tell us about most recent advances?

The cosmetic industries are heavily involved in the research of inorganic nanoparticles. For example, Dr Lee, director of R&D of Estee Lauder Companies, one of the world's leading manufacturers and marketers of quality skin care, fragrance and hair care products, collaborate to our book with a very interesting chapter on sun protective products that contain TiO2 nanoparticles to contrast the effect of Reactive Oxygen Species.

Conclusion Your book includes chapters from respected researchers from all over the world – Italy, Israel, Austria, Germany, UK, US, India and Japan. How are these countries contributing to today’s research in the area of inorganic nanomaterials?

Altavilla: Of course the research is a trans-national activity. Luckily the basis of the scientific and technological research is founded on the communication through journals, books etc. and the e-media has contributed to yield the exchange of scientific information faster and faster.

Nowadays, we are watching an impressive growth of research activities in the Eastern countries, such as China and India that invest lot of money in these activities. In fact, their scientific and technological products are extremely important for the advancing of learning and the direct effect is a terrific industrial growth for these countries.