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Researchers create nanotubes that change colors, form 'nanocarpet' and kill bacteria

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 24 University of Pittsburgh researchers have synthesized a simple molecule that not only produces perfectly uniform, self-assembled nanotubes but creates what they report as the first "nanocarpet," whereby these nanotubes organize themselves into an expanse of upright clusters that when magnified a million times resemble the fibers of a shag rug. Moreover, unlike other nanotube structures, these tubes display sensitivity to different agents by changing color and can be trained to kill bacteria, such as E. coli, with just a jab to its cell membrane.

How a mere single-step synthesis of a hydrocarbon and a simple salt compound produced these unique nanotube structures with antimicrobial capability is described in a paper posted on the Web site for the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The findings have implications for developing products that can simultaneously detect and kill biological weapons.

"In these nanotube structures, we have created a material that has the ability to sense their environment. The work is an outgrowth of our interest in developing materials that both sense and decontaminate chemical or biological weapons," said senior author Alan J. Russell, Ph.D., professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of the university's McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

The research, funded by the Department of Defense's Army Research Office, has as its goal the development of a paint that in the event of biological or chemical agents being deployed would change color and simultaneously destroy the deadly substances.

The researchers thought that by combining a chemical structure called a quarternary ammonium salt group, known for its ability to disrupt cell membranes and cause cell death, with a hydrocarbon diacetylene, which can change colors when appropriately formulated, the resulting molecule would have the desired properties of both biosensor and bioci
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Contact: Lisa Rossi
RossiL@upmc.edu
412-647-3555
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
24-Sep-2004


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