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MIT develops carbine-based binding material

Posted: 04 Jun 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:thiols? carbenes? ANHCs? chemical binding?

Carbenes, specifically the type the MIT team calls addressable N-heterocyclic carbenes (ANHCs), may provide such a generalized solution. While further experiments will be needed to confirm the material's performance, the technology holds much promise.

It was already known that some carbenes can bond securely to a variety of metal surfaces, as well as many other materials. But there had been no investigation of their possible use as anchors, stably binding dissimilar materials, Johnson said. Such combinations could be used as biosensors, for example: A molecule designed to bond with a specific biological marker could be attached to a gold wire, activating a circuit when that marker bonds with it. It could also be used to create protective surface coatings: antifouling surfaces to prevent the build-up of biological deposits, or antibiotic coatings to prevent the spread of infections.

Another possible application might be to coat gold nanoparticles with a biomolecule that binds to tumours. The particles could then be heated using infrared light, killing the tumours with heat. ANHC coated surfaces could be beneficial in this regard, as they should be stable at higher temperatures, which would prevent particle degradation.

Once specific applications are found, the material has great potential because "it's cheap to make, and you can make it at large scale," Johnson said.

According to Brent Segal, chief scientist for nanotechnology at Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology Centre, this work "represents a shift in the paradigm for attachment chemistry to metal atoms." "When I first learned of the approach, I said, 'Finally!' It seems as if someone might have come across something like this previously, but in terms of novelty, Johnson and his team have really executed beautifully to work out details for a viable system approach," Segal added.

Segal cautioned, however, "As is often the case, this is still quite early-stage work and will have various hurdles yet to overcome. Scaling up the material and understanding the limitations of performance in various solutions ... will be paramount."

The work received funding from MIT's Deshpande Centre for Technological Innovation, the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and the U.S. Department of Defence.

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