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Excessive use of toxic materials in medical nanotechnology could be avoided

(Nanowerk Spotlight) Metal nanomaterials are often synthesized using the toxic reagent formaldehyde at concentrations thousands of times higher than necessary. Many of these same nanomaterials are being investigated for use in cancer treatment – however, there is a risk that they could do more harm than good. The large excess of formaldehyde that is used originates from methods developed 100 years ago. Because these methods work well, they have stood the test of time. By better understanding the role that formaldehyde plays in nanomaterial synthesis it will become possible to reduce or eliminate this toxic reagent. By eliminating formaldehyde it will become safer to prepare these nanomaterials and safer to use them in cancer treatment.

"The observation that previous synthetic routes for nanoshell and core-shell nanoparticles utilize a large excess of formaldehyde suggested an opportunity for minimizing the quantity of formaldehyde used," Scott Reed, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Colorado at Denver, tells Nanowerk. "However, the synthesis of gold-core, silver-shell nanoparticles that are active in the near-infrared requires the polymer that forms by reaction of formaldehyde and ammonium hydroxide. Until a replacement polymer is found, formaldehyde is required to obtain the desired optical properties."

In a recent paper in the May 19, 2010 online edition of Chemistry of Materials ("Minimizing Formaldehyde Use in the Synthesis of Gold-Silver Core-Shell Nanoparticles"), Reed's team and colleagues from Portland State University describe an effort to minimize the amount of formaldehyde used for coating silver onto gold nanoparticles. They describe a strategy where formaldehyde use can be reduced 100-fold from prior routes and this minimization strategy can be applied to other nanoparticle syntheses.

Read more here: Nanowerk Spotlight

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