Silica nanoparticles are used in applications as wide-ranging as drug delivery and engineering, water treatment and detergents, and cosmetics. These tiny particles are between 1 and 100 nanometres in diameter. For comparison, a sheet of paper is around 100,000 nanometres thick.
In recent years, there has been considerable interest in tailoring nanoparticles for specific applications using polymers, with thiol-functionalised silica nanoparticles attracting particular attention. A team of researchers from the University of Reading synthesised polymer-coated thiolated silica nanoparticles in a “one-pot" reaction, publishing their results in RSC Advances.
They analysed the size and functionality of the synthesised nanoparticles using a variety of techniques, including small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) on the SANS2D neutron diffractometer, dynamic light scattering, transmission electron microscopy and cryo-transmission electron microscopy. By comparing the results from the different techniques, they observed a clustering effect of the nanoparticles, with increasing numbers of particles aggregating as a function of hydroxyethylcellulose concentration in the reaction. As hydroxyethylcellulose is cheaper and easier to produce than other polymers, this method may allow the mass production of thiolated silica nanoparticles tailored to a wide range of applications.
Related publication: “Structure and characterisation of hydroxyethylcellulose–silica nanoparticles" RSC Adv., 2018, 8, 6471-6478, DOI: 10.1039/C7RA08716K
Authors: Edward D. H. Mansfield (University of Reading), Yash Pandya (University of Reading), Ellina A. Mun (University of Reading), Sarah E. Rogers (ISIS), Inbal Abutbul-Ionita (Technion – Israel Institute of Technology), Dganit Danino (Technion – Israel Institute of Technology), Adrian C. Williams (University of Reading) and Vitaliy V. Khutoryanskiy (University of Reading).