Superman can use x-ray vision to see through walls with but all a nanotechnologist really wishes for is nanovision– the ability to see nanoparticles clearly. Now the Nanosight NS500 is here, and South African scientists can perform the previously impossible: count tiny nanoparticles – from 10 nm to 2000 nm in size – accurately.
Up to now, nanoparticle concentration could be calculated by using the mass in a unit volume of liquid, but the method was not adequate. The speciality of the Nanosight solves this problem, since it counts and tracks the movement of each individual nanoparticle in a liquid.
By counting every nanoparticle, a very accurate reading is provided for nanoparticle concentration. As a bonus, it provides information about size dynamics of the particles suspended in a fluid and can see when certain particles are forming clumps. The Nanosight has also come to the rescue of researchers who want to count nanoscale biological particles, like viruses and tiny microvesicles released by cells (which are implicated in the development of several diseases).
Unlike superhero powers, the Nanosight is not a product of science fiction, and it is surprisingly simple to understand how it works. The Nanosight directs a laser through a fluid. When the laser hits a particle, the light scatters and a microscopic camera can take a picture of where all the particles are. Particles move randomly through liquids in a pattern described by Brownian motion. Brownian motion has been well studied, so we know that small particles move faster and big particles move slower. Based on the speed of the particle movement, the Nanosight can not only calculate the size of the particles, but also count how many of that size are present.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria have recently acquired a Nanosight NS500. They are using it to detect and quantify nanoparticles in the water environment to generate data that describes exposure scenarios, which is essential for risk assessment purposes.
The Nanosight NS500 looks simple, but the sophisticated technology hidden under the blue cover is making the life of nanotechnologists like Dr. Yolanda Tancu of the CSIR much easier.
For details on access to the machine, contact Dr. Ndeke Musee, Head of Nanomaterials Risk Assessment Laboratory, at +27 12 841 4134 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writer: Febe Meyer