- Model the CCMV as a SCTR: explaining and demonstrating the diffusion phenomena, and by a quantification of ideal accumulation of the product inside the SCTR
- Use single-enzyme Michaelis-Menten kinetics to describe the reaction inside the container
- Design simulations (KMC and MD) to describe the behavior of the enzyme and nucleation of silver
- Prove the feasibility of a confined reaction model by comparing it to a single-enzyme Michaelis-Menten model.
Motivation and perspectives
The study of reactions in confined spaces is a fascinating subject. Achieving a greater control over these processes makes the synthesis of new materials and devices possible, and the design of better simulations of these phenomena to reproduce experimental results.
In this specific case of silver nanoparticle synthesis, the system’s design led to a greater control over the silver agglomeration. This material is truly uniform, thanks to the container’s properties, and has identical properties, making it ideal for a variety of novel applications.
Likewise, many other nanomaterials would benefit from a precise system to control their properties. Complex structures can become more feasible as the reaction becomes more and more precise. Also, a “green” synthesis is a very popular research topic, and its integration with nanotechnology could provide us with a process in which no harmful byproducts.
Further research could be directed at the design of case-specific containers, each with the unique properties required in order to assure an optimum performance. As it was mentioned earlier, the final goal is to design structures that can interact and add functionality to a variety of systems, including those that are biological.
Silver nanoparticle synthesis is one of the many applications of this model. As we begin to understand and take into account all the factors that intervene at a nanometric scale, within these containers, we gain more control over the reaction. By using a container with well-defined dimensions, the produced nanoparticles will have a nearly identical size and composition. An advantage of a viral capsid is its defined structure, always arranging itself in the same manner.
Material synthesis is not the only application for this model, there are many areas in which it can be used. The first is the possibility of one-pot multistep reactions.The specific positioning and compartmentalization of enzymes within a container can, in a way, mimic natural processes that occur in cells. These reactions can be designed according to a researcher’s needs, providing a way to study the cycle from a single-molecule perspective. In a similar manner, a series of nanoreactors can be used simultaneously in order to process a wide variety of substrates at the same time. Nanoreactors can also be applied in the area of bioremediation. The combination of catalytic activity, entrapment of the product and a stable structure is great importance in this field.
Understanding the mechanisms of diffusion, enzyme kinetics and nanoparticle evolution inside the container, there is the possibility to fabricate more complex materials, such as polyoxometalates. Also, the introduction of other scaffolds inside the virus, such as a specific DNA origami allows the production of metal nanostructures on the latter´s surface.
A virus-like particle can also be used as a container for drug delivery. The same encapsulation method applies to other small molecules that can fit inside the cavity. The protection provided by the structure allows the cargo to be safely delivered to the site where it is needed. A surface modification can be made to make the particle site-specific.
Finally, nanoreactors are can also be used as biosensors for clinical diagnosis. For example, these devices are highly sensitive assays to detect molecules that are un complex bodily fluids in a very low concentration, needing a stable environment in which to work in. In a similar fashion, these devices can detect small pH changes indicative of its surrounding conditions, for example, microbial growth.
As a conclusion, all these applications are possible because of greater control over the reaction that takes place inside a defined space. In particular, for Ag-NP synthesis, size-constrained process allows the production of a homogenous nanomaterial with many novel applications.