Working on the frontier of nanoparticle research

July 21, 2020

A field studying something very small is becoming very big: In the last decade, the field of nanoparticle research has exploded. At about one nanometer in size, nanoparticles are 100,000 times smaller than the width a strand of human hair and cannot be seen with the naked eye, but researchers are discovering broad uses for them in fields ranging from bioimaging to energy and the environment.

Working at this scale, it is difficult to be precise; however, the Computer-Aided Nano and Energy Lab (CANELa) at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering is advancing the field, modeling metal nanoclusters that are atomically precise in structure. An article highlighting their work and its influence on the field of nanoparticles is featured on the cover of the latest issue of Dalton Transactions.

"One major benefit of these very small systems is that by knowing their exact structure, we can apply very accurate theory," said Giannis "Yanni" Mpourmpakis, Bicentennial Alumni Faculty Fellow and associate professor of chemical engineering, who leads the CANELa. "With theory we can then investigate how properties of nanoclusters depend on their structure."

Ligand-protected metal nanoclusters are a unique class of nanomaterials that are sometimes referred to as "magic size" nanoclusters because of their high stability when they have specific compositions. One of the key advances their lab has made to the field, with funding from the National Science Foundation, is in modeling the specific number of gold atoms stabilized by a specific number of ligands, on the surface.

"With larger nanoparticles, researchers may have an estimate of how many atoms exist on each structure, but our modelling of these nanoclusters is exact. We can write out the precise molecular formula," explained Michael Cowan, graduate student in the CANELa and lead author on the article. "If you know the exact structure of small systems you can tailor them to create active sites for catalysis, which is what our lab focuses on most."

Predicting new alloys and previously undiscovered magic sizes is the next step that the field--and the lab--will need to tackle. The lab uses computational chemistry methods to model known nanoclusters, but creating a complete database of nanocluster structure, property and synthesis parameters will be the next step to apply machine learning and create a prediction framework.
-end-
The Frontier article, titled "Toward elucidating structure of ligand-protected nanoclusters," (DOI: 10.1039/D0DT01418D) was published in the journal Dalton Transactions by the Royal Society of Chemistry and was authored by Cowan and Mpourmpakis.

University of Pittsburgh

Related Science Articles from Brightsurf:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.

Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.

World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.

Read More: Science News and Science Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.