While nanotechnology operates on an extremely small scale, its global impact is nearly incalculable. Gases, liquids, and solids in nanoscale exhibit novel properties and applications not seen at larger sizes. Some materials are stronger. Others are more chemically reactive or reflect light differently. Still more have different physical, biological, or magnetic properties than in other forms or sizes of the same material. From cosmetics and medical therapies to stronger plastics and even the computer screen you are likely using to read this story—there are nearly a thousand products already on the global market that owe their existence to engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) and countless more are on the way.
"The NexION 350 ICP-MS opens up a whole new world of efficiency and opportunity for nanoparticle analysis. We can measure nanoparticles in less time, with accurate characterization, using a dedicated easy-to-use software interface."
As with any new field of study, nanotechnology and the creation of ENPs may pose unintended environmental, health, and safety risks demanding further study. The traditional research process involving nanomaterial characterization typically requires many different types of technologies to obtain a single piece of information.
Given the vast array of nanoparticles in development, some scientists say that it is doubtful that all ENPs will be thoroughly tested for a wide range of environmental effects before allowing their use. Others are pushing policymakers to adopt the "precautionary principle."
Fortunately, PerkinElmer recently introduced the NexION® 350 ICP-MS (Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer) that significantly improves the research quality and time needed to detect, quantitate, and characterize nanoparticles measuring them ten times faster than any other ICP-MS on the market. The system along with the Syngistix™ Nano Application Module interface is the world’s first single particle ICP-MS-dedicated analysis software. It can determine everything from particle composition and concentration to size and distribution in a single run in less than one minute without the need for additional labor-intensive data processing.
Thanks to a collaborative agreement with Missouri University of Science & Technology (Missouri S&T), a longtime PerkinElmer customer and emerging presence in nanotechnology research, the NexION 350 is helping university scientists to develop single particle ICP-MS methods for characterizing novel ENPs, investigating how they work, and determining their toxicity levels.
Drs. Shi and Liang are among a number of Missouri S&T researchers investigating the multi-element capabilities of nanoparticles and engineering their own physically uniform ENPs for research use in biologics, petroleum, fuel cells, semiconductors, nanomedicine, and nanotox research.