Research into the emerging field of nanoparticles, which are particles imperceptable to the naked eye but considerably larger than atoms or simple molecules, is cutting edge science with enormous technological, industrial, and economic potential.
Measuring typically 100 nanometers or less, in one or more of their dimensions, engineered nanoparticles are already finding widespread application in pharmaceutical science, optics, electronics, cosmetics, construction, and a wide variety of consumer goods. Indeed, you may now be reading about nanoparticles on a device manufactured with nanoparticles. According to FDU Chemistry Professor Mihaela Leonida, “The nano field seems to have taken over everything and become relevant to every aspect of our life.”
Due to their diminutive size relative to that of molecules and cells, nanoparticles exhibit very different properties from larger specimens of the same material. They have emerged as one of the most exciting tools due to the increased surface-to-volume ratio, which provides an intimate interaction with epithelial surfaces helping solve many permeation issues (for pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals, for instance). Other fields benefitted from them as well. For example, nanoparticles of silver can be incorporated into textiles to kill bacteria and make manufactured clothing odor-resistant. Similarly, silicon nanoparticles can be incorporated into batteries to increase power and reduce time needed to recharge.
Supported by faculty development grants from University College and the Office of Global Learning, Leonida participated in the 1st International Symposium on Nanoparticles-Nanomaterials and Applications (ISN2A), in Caparica, Portugal, from January 20 to 22, 2014. “It was an exciting time when researchers from many different fields and countries were brought together by their interest in a seminal and highly interdisciplinary area of present day science,” said Leonida.
Leonida presented an invited paper titled, “Encapsulation in chitosan-based nanoparticles offers advantages for bioactive agents”, examining the benefits of engineering nanoparticles of chitosan to contain (or encapsulate) smaller molecules of a drug or medicine (e.g., a bioactive agent). Such processes could help deliver lifesaving drug therapies in a safer and more efficient way while addressing stability issues too.
Organized by the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of Universidade Nova de Lisboa, located in Lisbon, Portugal, the conference brought together a multi-disciplinary group of scientists to take stock of the progress made so far in the field and look ahead to emerging developments. While attending the conference, Dr. Leonida also visited the Faculty of Sciences and Technology, which is located outside the main campus, in Mount Caparica. Networking with scientists in this important field, she explored possible research collaborations as well as possible institutional partnerships with FDU.
Dr. Leonida is Professor of Chemistry in the School of Natural Sciences on the Metropolitan Campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University. Author of six books and more than 150 articles, book chapters, and conference presentations, her research interests include biosensors, the chemistry of art materials, and detection of art forgeries, in addition to work on nanoparticles.