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Carnegie Mellon researchers use NMR to determine whether gold nanoparticles exhibit 'handedness'
Date:12/8/2011

PITTSBURGHCarnegie Mellon University's Roberto R. Gil and Rongchao Jin have successfully used NMR to analyze the structure of infinitesimal gold nanoparticles, which could advance the development and use of the tiny particles in drug development.

Their approach offers a significant advantage over routine methods for analyzing gold nanoparticles because it can determine whether the nanoparticles exist in a both right-handed and left-handed configuration, a phenomenon called chirality. Determining a nanoparticle's chirality is an important step toward developing them as chiral catalysts tools that are highly sought-after by the pharmaceutical industry. Their results are published online at ACS Nano.

Many drugs on the market today contain at least one molecule that is chiral. Often only one of the configurations, or isomers, is effective in the body. In some cases, the other isomer may even be harmful. A striking example is the drug thalidomide, which consisted of two isomers: one of which helped pregnant women control nausea while the other caused damage to the developing fetus. In an effort to create safer, more effective drugs, drug manufacturers are looking for ways to produce purer substances that contain only the left- or right-handed isomer.

Huifeng Qian, a fourth-year graduate student working with Jin, created a gold nanoparticle that has the potential to catalyze chemical reactions that will produce one isomer rather than the other. The nanoparticle is comprised of precisely 38 gold atoms and measures a mere 1.4 nanometers. Qian worked diligently for nearly a year to grow the nanoparticles into high-quality crystals so that he could study their structure using x-ray crystallography.

"Growing a pure crystal from nanoparticles is very challenging, and you may not even be able to get a crystal at all," said Jin, an assistant professor of chemistry in CMU's Mellon College of Science. "In the nanoparticle commun
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Contact: Jocelyn Duffy
jhduffy@andrew.cmu.edu
412-268-9982
Carnegie Mellon University
Source:Eurekalert  

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