Dr. Chauhan’s Nanoparticles are the New Science Frontier

Courtesy of Dr. Chauhan

Courtesy of Dr. Chauhan

Christie Dix, Staff Writer

Nanoparticles are very small things making a big difference in science today.

Nanotechnology is a fairly new field. Luckily, Professor/Chairperson Dr. Bhanu P. S. Chauhan and his students are at the forefront of this research. Nanoparticles are substances that, because of their size, look and act differently than bulk amounts of that material.

Courtesy of the Science Learning hub

For instance, depending on the size of a gold nanoparticle, its color can range from pink to black, completely unlike the metallic gold color of the substance as we know it. Arrangement, geometry and size of nanoparticles directly affect their function.

“This is a very visual example of how by tailoring the size of the material, you can tailor the properties of the material,” Dr. Chauhan said.

Dr. Chauhan’s Efforts

In the Nanomaterials Lab, Dr. Chauhan and his students research how these properties can be used in beneficial ways for human health, economic efficiency, and military applications.

“The students are the most important component of all this,” he said.

Their efforts include understanding particles at different sizes, how to control them better and how these properties can be used in a plethora of ways.

Dr. Chauhan has been working in nanotechnology for the last 15 years. He received his Ph.D in 1995 and did his post-doctoral work in Japan at the National Institute of Materials and Chemical Research. There, he worked with catalysts at nanoscale to make them more efficient and recoverable, for use again to make more polymers.

Polymers are materials that make up everything from your clothes, to your phone, to your coffee cup.

Dr. Chauhan inspires his students with his desire to advance the field.

“The more knowledge you gain, the more you start thinking of how we can expand, and then you find individuals who are really driven to discover things,” he said.

Elijah’s Research

William Paterson junior Elijah Cook has been focusing his research in the Nanomaterials Lab on making anti-cancer drugs more effective with the use of nanoparticles.

What makes nanoparticles special, he said, is “their high surface area to volume ratio. Nanoparticles increase the efficiency of other things.”

Basically, nanoparticles have a large surface that other substances can be attached to, including cancer drugs.

Currently, Elijah is working with Thiocytosine, which has anti-tumor properties and is an anti-Leukemic and anti-cancer agent. It causes apoptosis, or cell death, in cancer cells, which prevents tumor growth. Cytosine is one of the basic components of DNA, but Thiocytosine has a special structural difference which has proven useful in Elijah’s research. Thiocytosine has a small offshoot that sticks out from its main ring structure, and this offshoot contains a Sulfur molecule that binds strongly to the gold nanoparticles that Elijah creates. Gold nanoparticles 20-30 nanometers long behave differently than the gold in jewelry because of their small size.

Since the nanoparticles have a large surface area to work with, a large amount of cancer drugs can be loaded onto just one nanoparticle. This means that less of a drug can be used in treatment, but the effectiveness for that small amount will go up significantly.

The use of nanoparticles can also increase a drug’s stability, which increases effectiveness. Elijah gathers data in the lab to analyze different ways of perfecting and standardizing these methods, so that nanoparticles can play a larger part in medicine.

Nanoparticles are relatively cheap to create, so the research in this new field is extensive. Researchers like Elijah are expanding the knowledge of medical nanoparticle applications each day.

Elijah started his research last spring, coating nanoparticles with different organic compounds to make them effective in not just water, but other solvents as well.

In the future, he wants to continue his goal of making nanoparticles optimally useful in the medical field. He is interested in controlled drug release, which can be achieved by attaching a targeting molecule to the nanoparticles that are carrying a specific drug.

When the targeting molecule reaches the specific tissue that the drug needs to treat, the nanoparticle will release the drug. Since the drug is only being delivered to the body system that needs it, this nanoparticle application will reduce side effects and damage to other cells.

This technology is new, but one goal is to create a nanoparticle that brings chemotherapy drugs directly to cancer cells so that other cells are not killed in the process. This would increase effectiveness and eliminate the crippling side effects of chemotherapy.

Elijah also wishes to work with naturally-occurring medicines from plants and use nanoparticles to increase their efficiency, as to avoid the overproduction of synthetic medicine.

Terrence’s Research

Terrence Hopkins, a 20-year-old junior at William Paterson, has been focusing his research in the Nanomaterials Lab on making green catalysts.

Green catalysts in Chauhan’s lab are based on transition metal nanoparticles that are much more efficient at making transformations and new hybrid polymers. A hybrid polymer is a long string of molecules that is used for many commercial applications, and the long string cannot be formed without the help of a catalyst.

Catalysts are molecules that make it easier for two molecules to combine, so that the string forms faster. Regular bulk metals have long been used for this catalytic purpose, but at nanoscale, the catalysts are more efficient because of their high surface area. Since more surface area of the particle is exposed, the more area there is to react with the molecules that make up the polymer.

Hybrid organic-inorganic polymers are used in many high-tech materials and are in high-demand.

In cars, the anti-corrosives in the paint, the anti-scratch coating on the windows, and the anti-fog coating on the windshield are all hybrid polymers. The plastics we use and the synthetic fibers in our clothes are also considered hybrid polymers. There are also stealth military applications, because of their unique light absorption properties.

Because of polymer versatility, there are many businesses interested in nanoparticle research that are making the synthesis of these polymers more efficient and cheap.

Terrence is working with platinum nanoparticles at the size of about 10 nanometers. The catalysts based on platinum nanoparticles in Chauhan’s lab are more efficient and take much longer to degrade than regular catalysts. They are also recoverable, which means that once they are used, they will precipitate right out the solution and can be used again as a catalyst in the next reaction.

He is currently using silicon-based polymers, but wants to continue his research by using a new element in his polymers, such as germanium, and see how his platinum nanoparticles react with them.

Terrence plans to continue to test the efficiency of these nanoparticles in the future and help perfect their use.