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Highlights in Chemical Technology

Chemical technology news from across RSC Publishing.

Computer-aided nanoparticle synthesis

04 October 2007

Fed up with having to optimise your own reactions? Ever wondered why you can't get a computer to do it for you? Thanks to researchers from the UK, this possibility is not as far away as you may think.

Cartoon showing a computer helping with chemical reactions

Nanoparticles are finding uses in all manner of interesting applications from photonics to bioanalysis, but to be able to exploit them properly, it is essential to be able to carefully control their properties.

John deMello and colleagues from Imperial College London set about designing a microfluidic system that would automatically optimise the emission wavelength of fluorescent nanoparticles. 'A spectrometer monitors the particles as they exit the microfluidic chip. The spectra are fed to a computer which assigns a "dissatisfaction coefficient" to the particles depending on how far they are from some pre-set goal. The computer repeatedly updates the reaction conditions to minimise this coefficient and in so doing forces the chip to produce particles with the desired properties,' said deMello.

The next step will be to try and apply this kind of set up to other synthetic systems. 'The control routines we use are fairly versatile and should be easy to adapt to other types of materials,' deMello continued. 'All that's needed is some property of the product that can be measured directly at the point of production and two or three reaction parameters to optimise.'

"The computer repeatedly updates the reaction conditions and in so doing forces the chip to produce particles with the desired properties"
- John deMello, Imperial College, London
'This is a very cool piece of work that has potential in the synthesis of many different complex materials, and especially for heterogeneous systems like the nanoparticle synthesis described,' said Vincent Rotello from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, US. 'The next challenge will be to come up with a way to translate this success to a large scale. It could then have an impact in more traditional areas such as organic synthesis.'

Stephen Davey

Link to journal article

Intelligent routes to the controlled synthesis of nanoparticles
S. Krishnadasan, R. J. C. Brown, A. J. deMello and J. C. deMello, Lab Chip, 2007, 7, 1434
DOI: 10.1039/b711412e

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