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Engineers: Weak laser can ignite nanoparticles, with exciting possibilities
Date:3/18/2010

GAINESVILLE, Fla. University of Florida engineering researchers have found they can ignite certain nanoparticles using a low-power laser, a development they say opens the door to a wave of new technologies in health care, computing and automotive design.

A paper about the research appears in this week's advance online edition of Nature Nanotechnology.

Vijay Krishna, Nathanael Stevens, Ben Koopman and Brij Moudgil say they used lasers not much more intense than those found in laser pointers to light up, heat or ignite manufactured carbon molecules, known as fullerenes, whose soccer-ball-like shapes had been distorted in certain ways. They said the discovery suggests a score of important new applications for these so-called "functionalized fullerenes" molecules already being developed for a broad range of industries and commercial and medical products.

"The beauty of this is that it only requires a very low intensity laser," said Moudgil, professor of materials science and engineering and director of the engineering college's Particle Engineering Research Center, where the research was conducted.

The researchers used lasers with power in the range of 500 milliwatts. Though weak by laser standards, the researchers believe the lasers have enough energy to initiate the uncoiling or unraveling of the modified or functionalized fullerenes. That process, they believe, rapidly releases the energy stored when the molecules are formed into their unusual shapes, causing light, heat or burning under different conditions.

The Nature Nanotechnology paper says the researchers tested the technique in three possible applications.

In the first, they infused cancer cells in a laboratory with a variety of functionalized fullerenes known to be biologically safe called polyhydroxy fullerenes. They then used the laser to heat the fullerenes, destroying the cancer cells from within.

"It caused stress in the
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Contact: Vijay Krishna
vkrishna@perc.ufl.edu
352-846-3322
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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