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Research Field Cancer, Nanomedicine, Drug discovery

Leidenfrost Nanochemistry

Current methods for fabricating nanoparticles, such as hydrothermal synthesis, laser ablation, or gel synthesis, all involve environmentally unfriendly surfactants, as well as expensive instrumentation. But what if fabrication could be achieved simply with a water bath and hot plate? Inspired by the way water dances on a hot pan – the Leidenfrost phenomenon – and similar chemistry that takes place in underwater volcanos, Mady Elbahri, Professor of Chemical Engineering at Aalto University, Finland, has developed an environmentally friendly means of producing ZnO2 nanoparticles (1). What’s more, Elbahri’s team has also found that the nanoparticles can kill cancer cells. Here, she tells us more about Leidenfrost nanochemistry.

What inspired this work?

Let’s start with the Leidenfrost phenomenon. When cooking in the kitchen, you may have noticed that when a water droplet touches the surface of a very hot pan, instead of evaporating, it moves and dances. I observed this phenomenon – the Leidenfrost phenomenon – in my kitchen a few years ago, and after contemplating the mechanisms behind it, I thought that it could potentially be useful for nanosynthesis. After some initial research, I introduced the novel concept of “Leidenfrost nanochemistry,” which means synthesis of nanoparticles using the Leidenfrost effect. To scale up the process, we sought to recreate the way underwater volcanos form minerals through Leidenfrost chemistry using a hot water bath.

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About the Author

James Strachan

Over the course of my Biomedical Sciences degree it dawned on me that my goal of becoming a scientist didn’t quite mesh with my lack of affinity for lab work. Thinking on my decision to pursue biology rather than English at age 15 – despite an aptitude for the latter – I realized that science writing was a way to combine what I loved with what I was good at.
From there I set out to gather as much freelancing experience as I could, spending 2 years developing scientific content for International Innovation, before completing an MSc in Science Communication. After gaining invaluable experience in supporting the communications efforts of CERN and IN-PART, I joined Texere – where I am focused on producing consistently engaging, cutting-edge and innovative content for our specialist audiences around the world.

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