Extreme nanomaterials

Researchers from Europe and the US are using designs found in extreme environments to help produce nanomaterials that could eventually be used for new catalysts, liquid crystal assembly or biosensory devices.


Researchers from the UK’s John Innes Centre, the Scripps Research Institute in California and the Institut Pasteur in Paris are using designs found in extreme environments to help produce nanomaterials.


The team has identified viral nanoparticles (VNPs) that can be used to form nanobuilding blocks. VNPs are modifiable via chemical means or genetic engineering and can accurately self-assemble. Tests have revealed that they can also remain functional in harsh conditions.


The team highlighted the SIRV2 virus as being particularly suitable for use as a nanobuilding block using layer-by-layer assembly. SIRV2 is a rod-shaped, single-celled micro-organism that is found in the hot acidic sulphurous springs of Iceland. Since virus body and ends can be labelled selectively, researchers expect that arrays with different physical properties can be constructed by aligning SIRV2 particles body-to-body rather than self-assembly end-to-end.

This could result in a porous structure that can be used for new catalysts, liquid crystal assembly or biosensory devices. Further modifications may be possible by coupling the nanoparticles end-to-end to form more complicated structures that can be used to pattern a nanocircuit for electronic applications in nanodevices.