Earlier this year, Francesco Stellacci announced that his group had developed a material that can suck 20 times its weight in oil out of a sample of water. The material could be used to clean up massive crude spills, and chemist Joerg Lahann of the University of Michigan called the work a blueprint for scientists who hope to design nanomaterials that protect the environment. Yet Stellacci doesn't consider this his best work. He's excited about tricking cells.
Stellacci's first major step came in 2003, when he created a peculiar coating for metallic nanoparticles. He had been wondering what would happen if hydrophilic, or water-loving, molecules, and their opposites, hydrophobes, were stuck together on the surface of a nanosize sphere. So he ran an experiment and found that the molecules self-organized into alternating stripes, like lines of latitude on a globe. A belt of tiny, spherical hydrophilic molecules sat atop a band of hydrophobes, and so on from top to bottom.
These stripes are not only aesthetically attractive, they gave his particles new properties. Typically, when materials try to enter a cell, they either get swallowed up and spat out, or they damage it by poking a hole in its membrane. But Stellacci's striped nanoparticles slipped right in. "The cell has a security system," he says, "and somehow my particles trick it."
He hasn't figured out how this works, but he has shown that the particles could improve drug delivery by giving molecules safe passage into cells. This finding, along with the oil-absorbing material and a new genetic testing technique he developed, has his contemporaries buzzing. "From time to time you see those big leaps in science," Lahann says. "Francesco is one of those people who has taken several big leaps."
I wonder if his hydrophilic+hydrophobic mix's/configuration's ability has anything to do with the fact that the cell membrane is permeable to water.
I would think that it would have something to do with the membrane being permeable to water and i will say it has great potential for cleaning up the general water poluntants and things of that such. One question that i have is how many other uses can this expand to i personally think it has amazing potential and i take my hat of to Mr.Francesco Stellacci.
This is awesome!!!
On reading it a few times, I couldn't come up with an idea of this discovery's potential use. But after reading the news and information came to me that some of the oil deposits are found in the coastal waters of countries - this would help in such cases wherein there would be oil spills should there be lots of offshore drilling places in the future.
However, every means of such an oil spill happening should be prevented but if it was inevitable such as being caused by a super typhoon then this thing "in a large scale" would help in getting that oil out of our seas or oceans. Does this give us more reason to support off-shore drilling then? If it would help ease the energy troubles of a country in the interim, then it's nice. But, I see a future wherein we would not be that dependent anymore on fossil fuels.
But for now, I guess it's ok.... and this invention would surely remedy the bad effects of offshore drilling thus preserving marine life and the fragile ecosysytem found in our coastal waters.
'Gratz Sir. (^_^)
I think this is a major advance for both oil spill cleanup and for medicine. The real trick however will be in getting it to a production stage. I suggest a company be formed and some venture capital be found. Best wishes!