To this end, the researchers have developed, within the context of the National Research Programme "Smart Materials" (NRP 62), a one-pot synthesis process to encapsulate the nanoparticles. This allows them to determine the porosity and the size of the silica container in relation to the nanoparticle it contains. Under the microscope, it looks like a nanoscopic rattle. In order to improve the performance of the coating even further, the researchers - in collaboration with Prof. Christian Bochet's research group - are working on bacterial sensors aiming to attach to the encapsulated nanoparticles. If a sensor like this were in place, the silver would only be released if a pathogen were nearby. This targeted release would further prolong the efficiency of the protection and it would prevent silver from being needlessly released into the organism.
The synthesis developed by the researchers allows for the development of various types of containers for various nanoparticles. The application potential for these nano-rattles is therefore considerable: by controlling the porosity of the container, it is for example possible to control which molecules can get close to the nanoparticles. This, in turn, would make it possible to create a nanoreactor in which chemical reactions could take place. The technique might also enable new battery designs in which each encapsulated nanoparticle would play the role of an electrode. (© Swiss National Science Foundation SNF, AcademiaNet)