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Seminar Topics -ABSTRACT

Nano materials are at the leading edge of the rapidly developing field of nanotechnology. Their unique size-dependent properties make these materials superior and indispensable in many areas of human activity. This Seminar Topics review tries to summarize the most recent developments in the field of applied nano materials, in particular their application in biology and medicine, and discusses their commercialization prospects.

Keywords:Nanotechnology; nano materials; nano-particles; quantum dots; nano tubes; medicine; biology; applications


Nanotechnology is enabling technology that deals with nano-meter sized objects. It is expected that nanotechnology will be developed at several levels: materials, devices and systems. The nano materials level is the most advanced at present, both in scientific knowledge and in commercial applications. A decade ago, nano particles were studied because of their size-dependent physical and chemical properties. Now they have entered a commercial exploration period.

Living organisms are built of cells that are typically 10 μm across. However, the cell parts are much smaller and are in the sub-micron size domain. Even smaller are the proteins with a typical size of just 5 mm, which is comparable with the dimensions of smallest man made nano particles. This simple size comparison gives an idea of using nano particles as very small probes that would allow us to spy at the cellular machinery without introducing too much interference. Understanding of biological processes on the nano scale level is a strong driving force behind development of nanotechnology.

Out of plethora of size-dependent physical properties available to someone who is interested in the practical side of nano materials, optical and magnetic effects are the most used for biological applications.

The aim of Seminar topics Paper presentation review is firstly to give reader a historic prospective of nano material application to biology and medicine, secondly to try to overview the most recent developments in this field, and finally to discuss the hard road to commercialization. Hybrid bio nano materials can also be applied to build novel electronic, optoelectronic and memory devices (see for example. Nevertheless, this will not be discussed here and will be a subject of a separate article.


A list of some of the applications of nano materials to biology or medicine is given below:

  • – Fluorescent biological labels
  • – Drug and gene delivery,
  • – Bio detection of pathogens
  • – Detection of proteins
  • – Probing of DNA structure
  • – Tissue engineering
  • – Tumor destruction via heating (hypothermia)
  • – Separation and purification of biological molecules and cells
  • – MRI contrast enhancement
  • – Psychokinetic studies

As mentioned above, the fact that nano particles exist in the same size domain as proteins makes nano materials suitable for bio tagging or labeling. However, size is just one of many characteristics of nano particles that itself is rarely sufficient if one is to use nano particles as biological tags. In order to interact with biological target, a biological or molecular coating or layer acting as a bio inorganic interface should be attached to the nano particle. Examples of biological coatings may include antibodies, bio-polymers like collagen, or monolayers of small molecules that make the nano particles bio compatible. In addition, as optical detection techniques are wide spread in biological research, nano particles should either fluoresce or change their optical properties. The approaches used in constructing nano-materials are schematically presented below (see Figure ).

Seminar topics on nano technology
Typical configurations utilized in nano-bio materials applied to medical or biological problems.

Nano-particle usually forms the core of nano-bio material. It can be used as a convenient surface for molecular assembly, and may be composed of inorganic or polymeric materials. It can also be in the form of nano-vesicle surrounded by a membrane or a layer. The shape is more often spherical but cylindrical, plate-like and other shapes are possible. The size and size distribution might be important in some cases, for example if penetration through a pore structure of a cellular membrane is required. The size and size distribution are becoming extremely critical when quantum-sized effects are used to control material properties. A tight control of the average particle size and a narrow distribution of sizes allow creating very efficient fluorescent probes that emit narrow light in a very wide range of wavelengths. This helps with creating bio-markers with many and well distinguished colours. The core itself might have several layers and be multifunctional. For example, combining magnetic and luminescent layers one can both detect and manipulate the particles.

The core particle is often protected by several monolayers of inert material, for example silica. Organic molecules that are adsorbed or chemisorbed on the surface of the particle are also used for this purpose. The same layer might act as a bio-compatible material. However, more often an additional layer of linker molecules is required to proceed with further functionalism. This linear linker molecule has reactive groups at both ends. One group is aimed at attaching the linker to the nano-particle surface and the other is used to bind various moieties like bio-compatibles (dextran), antibodies, fluorophores etc., depending on the function required by the application.

Recent developments

  • Tissue engineering
  • Cancer therapy
  • Multicolour optical coding for biological assays
  • Manipulation of cells and bio-molecules
  • Protein detection
  • Commercial exploration

Future directions

As it stands now, the majority of commercial nano particle applications in medicine are geared towards drug delivery. In bio sciences, nanoparticles are replacing organic dyes in the applications that require high photo-stability as well as high multiplexing capabilities. There are some developments in directing and remotely controlling the functions of nano-probes, for example driving magnetic nanoparticles to the tumor and then making them either to release the drug load or just heating them in order to destroy the surrounding tissue. The major trend in further development of nano-materials is to make them multifunctional and controllable by external signals or by local environment thus essentially turning them into nano-devices.

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