ISE researchers published their findings in the journal Physical Review Letters.
Researchers from the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering have discovered novel ways of controlling the design of shape-changing nanoparticles, which could be used in the design of smart drug-delivery containers and have applications in nanomedicine and the development of new reconfigurable materials.
The study, “Designing surface charge patterns for shape control of deformable nanoparticles,” published by the journal Physical Review Letters, used simulations to show that hollow, deformable nanoparticles tailored with surface charge patterns adapt their shape in response to changes in patterns and ionic strength.
“I’ve long been fascinated by the idea of whether soft or flexible nanoparticles could change their shape in response to changing patterns of surface charge,” said Vikram Jadhao, an assistant professor of intelligent systems engineering at the Luddy School. “The question is: Can we tailor this smart self-reconfigurable behavior in systems made from synthetic soft materials such as polymers and gels? Although shape-changing nanoparticles have been fabricated and probed in recent years, little is known regarding nanoparticles whose shape can be tuned by manipulating surface charge patterns.”
Jadhao collaborated with ISE Ph.D. students Nicholas Brunk and JCS Kadupitiya, who leaned on their backgrounds in physics and biotechnology (Brunk) and computer science and engineering (Kadupitiya) to create a simulation that showed that nanoparticles with charged stripes, Janus patches, and polyhedrally distributed patches adapt their shape differently in response to changes in ionic strength, transforming into rodlike structures, capsules, spinning tops, hemispheres, variably dimpled bowls, and particles with polyhedral protrusions.
“Nicholas worked on developing the model and the energy-optimization method to describe and simulate deformations of patchy flexible nanoparticles,” Jadhao said. “The computational model system was quite complex and ripe for the use of parallel computing techniques. Kadupitiya implemented techniques that significantly accelerated the code.”
The simulation findings will aid in the synthesis of new deformable nanoparticles that could be used to create responsive nanocontainers that change shape in response to changing biological environments. These findings also provide a fundamental understanding of energetically favorable shapes charged nanoparticles can adopt, which can inform the design of dynamic nanoscale building blocks to engineer reconfigurable materials using self-assembly.
The research also provides a foundation for the next evolution in the shape control of nanoparticles.
“The immediate next step is to extend the investigation to nanoparticles of larger sizes and to particles that exhibit faceting,” Jadhao said. “This opens the potential of applying the shape-switching scenarios revealed in our work to a broader class of soft-matter-based nanoparticle systems. The model can be extended to explore a variety of surface charge patterns, which I expect will reveal a great diversity of shapes tailorable in these flexible nanoparticles.”