Currently researchers have to rely on attaching fluorescent dyes or heavy metals to label parts of organic nanocarrier structures for investigation, often changing them in the process. A new technique using chemically-sensitive “soft” X-rays offers a simpler, non-disruptive way of gaining insight into this nano-world. In a study published by Nature Communications, a research team demonstrates the capability of the X-ray method on a smart drug delivery nanoparticle and a polysoap nanostructure intended to capture crude oil spilled in the ocean.

Brian Collins

“We have developed a new technique to look at nanocarrier internal structure, chemistry and environmental behavior without any labeling at all – a new capability that up to now has not been possible,” said Brian Collins, a Washington State University physicist and corresponding author on the study. “Currently, you need fluorescent tags to see inside nanocarriers, but this can modify their structure and behavior, especially if they’re made out of carbon-based materials. With this new technique, we’ve been able to look inside these nanocarriers, analyze their chemical identities and concentrations – and do this all in their fully natural state, including their water environment.”

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