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Safe Packing

New technique for controlling the textures and structures of nanoparticles

12 December 2021

Safe Packing

Countless polystyrene balls keep your valuables safe in transit. Now researchers are asking whether polystyrene balls 1000 times smaller might be able to provide a different type of protection. Nanoparticles are increasingly used in new drug-delivery and tissue engineering technologies. But their precise shape, size and structure impacts their performance like the ridges on a tyre influence a racing car. A new technique for controlling these features is based on freezing the unique textures that emerge as droplet surfaces deform at the boundaries between two liquids. A study found that the viscosity of the liquids could determine microscopic polystyrene ball surface structures, and this could be fine-tuned by tweaking temperature and time taken to form (different surface textures and internal structures pictured top and bottom). The approach can be customised, repeated, upscaled, and could work for other materials, essential for applying it in the real world.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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