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A nano-sized sponge made of electrons
Date:11/12/2013

lised in one of the atoms at the surface. To determine the behaviour of the electrons during the reaction, the scientists used the intense X-ray beams at the ESRF to probe solutions of nanoparticles in water and ethanol. The nanoparticles had a diameter of 3 nm and consisted of several thousands of molecules of cerium dioxide.

It is known that nanoparticles can change their behaviour under vacuum when studied with an electron microscope, for example. The scientists therefore carried out their experiment under realistic conditions, studying the nanoparticles in solution and in real time as the chemical reaction was taking place. "It was only possible to conduct these experiments in a liquid rather than under vacuum because we used X-rays as probes for the electron distribution." says Jean Daniel Cafun.

In their experiment, the scientists were successful in observing the creation of the nanoparticles in solution and then how these nanoparticles eliminated highly reactive molecules (reactive oxygen species, or ROS) from the solution. This elimination process mimics the role of an important enzyme in living organisms - catalase - that protects cells from these aggressive molecules. Cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy have high levels of ROS in their bodies and ceria nanoparticles have been proposed as a way of reducing the levels of ROS and thus alleviating the negative impacts of the therapy on the patients. Throughout the chemical reaction, the electronic structure of the cerium atoms and thus the redistribution of the electron cloud was monitored. "It is crucial to be able to study the chemical processes of the particles in an environment that is close to conditions found in biological systems." emphasizes Victor Puntes.

"Scientists have been discussing the question: What happens when electrons are added to ceria nanoparticles? The work by Cafun et al. is a key study because it questions the present, widely accepted model and will
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Contact: Claus Habfast
claus.habfast@esrf.fr
33-666-662-384
European Synchrotron Radiation Facility
Source:Eurekalert  

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