Nanotechnology's Environmental Impact: soybeans & water

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2008 11:26 am    Post subject: Nanotechnology's Environmental Impact: soybeans & water Reply with quote

Nanotechnology's Environmental Impact Can Be Solved by Soybeans and Water

Codie Leonsch Hartwig

Gold salt nanoparticles, used in technologies ranging from medical applications to smart telecommunications devices, pose the great threat of negative environmental impact, but now researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) have developed an environmentally safe way to produce gold salt nanoparticles.

Gold salt nanoparticles currently play a very important role in advanced technologies. They are used in diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Additionally, they are used in smart electronics applications in computers as well as in telecommunication devices.

Scientists are greatly concerned over the negative global environmental impact of nanotechnology. In fact, testimony (most notably of Andrew Maynard, the chief scientist of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies) was recently given before the House Science Committee making the case for government regulation of the burgeoning nanotechnology industry that is already flooding the marketplace with nanotechnology products, the safety of which--for consumer and production worker--has not been tested.

Scientists' reasons for this well-founded concern is that several environmentally damaging synthetic, or artificial, man-made chemicals must be produced in order to make gold nanoparticles. Furthermore, these artificial chemicals cannot be produced unless another set of synthetic man-made chemicals is first produced as ingredients for the synthetic chemicals from which gold nanoparticles are produced: there is a two-tier synthetic chemical production process necessary to the production of gold nanoparticles, which would represent the third tier of environmentally hazardous production.

Gold salts are, in fact, not salts at all. They are actually ionic compounds of gold that have a long history of use in medical treatments, especially in treating arthritis. Researchers Kattesh Katti, Raghuraman Kannan, and Kavita Katti, along with a team of participating scientists, produced gold salts by--as it is reported in the MU press release--looking to Mother Nature for assistance. This is only fitting as it is Mother Nature whom the world has agreed to protect from further negative environmental impact.

Kattesh Katti and colleagues found that gold nanoparticles, tiny smaller-than-microscopic pieces of gold, could be naturally and environmentally beneficially produced by mixing gold salts, soybeans and water. They first submersed gold salts in water and then added soybeans. One or more phytochemicals are pulled from the soybeans by the action of the water. This phytochemical(s) reacts with the gold salts and reduces them to nanoparticles--gold nanoparticles. Then, a second phytochemical(s), which has been similarly pulled out from the soybeans, interacts with the newly formed gold nanoparticles. This second phytochemical reaction stabilizes the new nanoparticles and prevents them from fusing with nearby particles.

The end result of this nanoparticle production is that gold nanoparticles are produced that are 100 percent uniform. Besides which, the whole process in 100 percent green and environmentally friendly. In 2006, Missouri farmers produced 194 million bushels of soybeans that were worth around 1.2 billion dollars. Now, some of their produce can go to forwarding the advance of modern nanotechnology and the advance of environmental protection.

It is reported that there is an overwhelming positive international reaction to Dr. Katti's development. For example, from India, B. R. Barwale, the winner of the 1998 World Food Prize and founder of Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company, says: "Dr. Katti's...discovery will ensure that gold nanoparticles-based Nanomedicine products would be made available even to the less developed regions of the world."

From Germany, Herbert W. Roesky, world renowned chemist and professor at the University of Goettingen, says: "Dr. Katti's discovery sets up the beginning of a new knowledge frontier that interfaces plant science, chemistry and nanotechnology."

From Stanford University's Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, director Sam Gambhir says Dr. Katti's development is a very important first step and: "Dr. Katti's novel methodology to develop gold nanoparticles with soy will have important implications as the field of nanotechnology blossoms and has greater needs for 'green' synthesis of gold based nanoparticles."

To sum up the worldwide reaction, Puspendu Das, physical chemistry professor at the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore, says: "The application of soy for the production of gold nanoparticles is amazing. It shows for the first time that chemicals within soy are capable of producing gold nanoparticles. This clearly marks the beginning of a new field of 'Phytochemical-Nanoscience' and opens up a new pathway for discoveries in nanotechnology. This invention will have far-reaching implications in nanoscience and technology research globally since nanoparticles of gold are used in almost every sensor design and are implicated in life sciences for diagnostic and therapeutic applications."
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