The study of the synthesis, exotic properties, assembly/packaging and potential commercial application of nanomaterials is an extremely important topic of research that is expected to have far-reaching global impact. The focus of my talk will be on an emerging branch of nanotechnology that derives its inspiration from biology. Recognizing that some of the most exquisites and highly functional nanomaterials are grown by biological systems (examples include silica by diatoms and magnetic nanoparticles by magnetotactic bacteria 1). Many researchers have focused attention on understanding how inorganic materials are made biological systems and attempting to replicate such processes in the lab. In my laboratory, we investigated the use of plant organisms such as fungi in the synthesis of nanomaterials over a range of chemical compositions that include materials 2, metal sulfides 3, and oxides 4. An exciting development is the use of plant extracts in nanoparticle synthesis 5 wherein large concentrations of gold nanotriangles have been obtained that have potential application in cancer hyperthermia. Organisms such as fungi are not normally exposed to metal precursor stresses such that they should be capable of a broad range of biochemical transformations to negate these stresses is useful in materials chemistry, and throws up exciting possibilities. Recently, we have also shown that bacteria may be “trained” to synthesize magnetite when challenged with suitable iron complexes under aerobic conditions 6.
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