Bionanotechnology: The Science of Revealing Life with Nanostructures
Anne Van Hoonacker.
Nanostructures are inorganic, organic or composite materials synthesized in various forms with sizes down to the nanometer. A special interest in these nanomaterials emerged during the last decades because it was progressively recognized that the components of which they were made acquired or improved specific and interesting physical properties, as a result from their organizational packaging within such nanostructures. Among the physical properties of interest are the enhanced opto-electronic signals produced by such materials upon stimulation by external stimuli. Biology and biochemistry are disciplines devoted to the understanding of life at the cellular and molecular levels, respectively. The technological tools used until recently in these fields of research to detect interactions or visualize structures within cells, were usually of limited capacity because they required specific instrumentation and were rather cumbersome. Such shortcomings were upheld with the advent of biosensors, which are instruments transducing directly events occurring at the molecular or cellular levels into electrical or optical signals. The combination of nanoscience with the biological sciences has recently given birth to bionanotechnology, a new discipline devoted to the development of nanostructures as biosensors capable of transducing signals down to a single molecule or a single cell. This article reviews the current developments in the synthesis of nanomaterials, our current understanding of their physical properties, and the new possibilities offered by their application to the biological sciences. The discussion will also focus on the cutting edge developments in bionanotechnology foreseeable in a very near future.
Keywords: nanotechnology, nanoparticles, colloidal gold, colloidal silver, conductive polymers, biosensing
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