Stella Marinakos creates and characterizes a wide array of nanoparticles so that colleagues both home and abroad in the Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology (CEINT) can study their potential environmental effects. Join her on a “choose your own adventure” path to see how some different kinds of nanoparticles are made.
Step 1: Base Material
To begin with, Marinakos chooses a metal salt to use as her base. Although many laboratories and industrial companies produce nanoparticles made of carbon or other various metals, Marinakos synthesizes primarily gold- and silver-core spheres.
“Silver-core nanoparticles have been in high demand for experiments over the last few years because they are being used in a lot of commercial products,” explains Marinakos. “They’ve been shown to have antimicrobial properties. And if they kill microbes, what else might they have deleterious effects on?”
Gold-core nanoparticles are also a common request, not just because they’re used in commercial products, but because they can act as a control for otherwise-identical silver-core nanoparticles. For example, to determine if a nanoparticle’s behavior is dependent on what metal it’s made of rather than its size or coating, you have to compare it to another nanoparticle that is exactly the same in everything but the silver core.