Professor Julius Vancso, of the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology, works on the use of polymers in the targeted delivery of medication and in the acceleration of chemical reactions. Together with others in his group (Materials Science and Technology of Polymers), Prof. Vancso develops polymers with specific properties.
Prof. Julius Vancso's group is working on polymers for use in a variety of nanotechnological applications. Prof. Vancso heads the Materials Science and Technology of Polymers research group at the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology.
Polymers are long-chain molecules made up of a number of smaller molecules, or monomers. The researchers are increasingly able to influence the structure of these molecules and to use them in combination with metal or semiconductor nanoparticles in complex structured systems.
Until recently, scientists were restricted to manipulating the surfaces of single molecules. "However, with current technology, we are increasingly able to manipulate and investigate structures in three dimensions" says Prof. Vancso.
The scientists manipulate these polymers and combine them with metal or semiconductor nanoparticles. As a result, these combinations of nanosystems acquire new properties. The researchers are able to build functional nanostructures, using macromolecular "glue" to combine semiconducting nanostructures and hold them in place.
In other projects, Prof. Vancso and his colleagues from MESA+, Prof. Huskens, Prof. Reinhoudt, and Prof. Subramaniam, control events at the molecular level using a combination of self-organizing nanostructures. The strong interdisciplinary collaboration found within MESA+ is a key factor in complex projects of this kind", notes Prof. Vancso. Polymers and light-emitting semiconducting nanocrystals are used to construct functional structures, layer by layer. These molecular nanostructures can be used to target drug release within the body, or to locate tumours very precisely, for example. "However, the polymers can also be used in micro reactors, for example. There they combine with tiny metal particles to form brush-like structures, allowing the researchers to greatly accelerate the rate of chemical reactions" adds Prof. Vancso.
Prof. Vancso and various colleagues from MESA+ and Singapore recently published an article in the renowned scientific journal Small, on the use of fluorescent nanocrystals. In this study, special fluorescent nanocrystals were added to the polymers. When exposed to UV radiation, these semiconductor particles emit light. You can then change the colour of that light by adding other molecules. "Here, the polymers are used as biomarkers. Biomarkers can be used to make highly specific observations of molecules, or to locate tumours more effectively. This is because the biomarkers bind to tumour cells and emit light. Doctors can use this technique to locate tumours more accurately," explains Prof. Vancso.