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Patterning the surface of monolayer-protected nanoparticles to obtain intelligent nanodevices

Final Report Summary - MOSAIC (Patterning the surface of monolayer-protected nanoparticles to obtain intelligent nanodevices)

Nanotechnology is considered the next potential technological revolution. Among many other systems, nanoparticles will play a major role in this process. When reduced to the size of nanometers, matter acquires new properties that can be exploited for several applications. But this is not all. Nanoparticles are also self-organized systems: in other words, objects that assemble by themselves.
When a nanoparticle is prepared, atoms and small molecules are dissolved in a solvent. Then the chemical nature of such building blocks brings them to group in a programmed and organized way, like bricks magically pushed to assemble into a building, to form an object with an high degree of complexity. Not only metals or other inorganic atoms condense to form a crystal with remarkable properties, but also an ordered shell (called “monolayer”) of organic molecules covers the crystal surface to protect and stabilize it.
The MOSAIC project has made a further step in controlling this process. We demonstrated that we can program the nanoparticle endowing it with the ability to selectively capture molecules, and transport, transform and signal them.
In this way we’ve realized nanoparticles capable to spontaneously penetrate inside a cell and, once there, change the color of the light they emit as a function of the levels of chloride they found there.
Other nanoparticles proved to be able to detect and report the presence of drug metabolites in biological fluids, even in the presence of similar interfering molecules, by the mean of a magnetic resonance experiment or they were able to detect and identify unknown illicit drugs. In the same way, we foresee that the same particles will be able to detect molecular makers of important diseases or relevant environmental pollutant.