University of Cambridge > > Department of Earth Sciences Seminars (downtown) > Natural nanomagnets (magnetosomes) offer inspirational solutions to green production of magnetic nanoparticles

Natural nanomagnets (magnetosomes) offer inspirational solutions to green production of magnetic nanoparticles

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Magnetotactic bacteria take up iron ions from the environment and synthesis nanoparticles of magnetite within lipid vesicles (known as magnetosomes) within their cells. The biomineralisation of magnetosomes is a finely tuned biological process yielding morphologically precise magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs). MNPs have many applications, particularly over a range of emerging biomedicine (diagnostic and therapeutic) and nanotechnology (data storage). For such applications the MNPs are required to have a mono-disperse size and shape distribution to ensure their magnetic behaviour is consistent, which can require chemical synthesis under harsh and toxic conditions, or worst still, morphologies inaccessible by known wet chemical methods. Furthermore, the ability to tailor these requirements under ambient environmentally friendly synthetic production is a key goal for greener chemistry. Thus Magnetosomes show great potential for biomedical applications, however, magnetosomes themselves may not be ideal with respect to economy of production and adaptability for different specifications. In my research I have sought inspiration from nature to understand and develop hybrid biomineralisation/chemical green routes to: 1. Synthesise novel MNPs for medical applications and 2. Biomineralise on a massive scale for structural engineering ground strengthen purposes. In this talk we briefly explore how magnetosomes can be enhanced and used in medicine, before considering how we seek inspiration from magnetic bacteria to: 1. develop “artificial magnetosomes”; and 2. Utilise their proteins to direct the synthesis of precise MNPs of magnetite, both in greater yields that magnetosomes. I will explain how we have reached a level of understanding about how these proteins and peptides assemble and function to control MNP formation with the eventual aim of developing a protein/additive tool box for the control of a range of MNPs under ambient conditions. I will then change tack to consider what we have learnt from the biomineralisation process and develop new methods for ground strengthening of dangerous structures such as tailings dams.

This talk is part of the Department of Earth Sciences Seminars (downtown) series.

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