Nanolab's four main areas of research interests are:
- Polymeric Nanoparticles
- Metallic Nanoparticles
- Carbonaceous Nanoparticles
- Computational and mahematical moelling of soft matter
- Societal Impacts of Nanotechnology
Polymeric nanomaterials are of considerable interest in the field of nanomedicine having been identified as excellent candidates for nano-based targeted drug delivery systems. The Nanolab research centre employs a variety of polymeric nanoparticles to monitor their effect in biological systems and assess their potential for targeted drug delivery.
Noncytotoxic commercial polymeric nanomaterials are used to study a variety of biological effects such as cellular internalisation, intra cellular tracking, and bioaccumulation.
The centre also is using these particles to develop and validate an alternative combined biological tracking and testing method based on live-in vitro vibrational spectroscopic studies.
A number of tailor made polymeric nanomaterials, which systematically vary properties such as size, shape, surface charge and functional groups are also routinely used to expand the current knowledge as to how nanomaterials behave in cellular systems.
Studies of this nature allow any observed effects and localisation sites to be attributed to the polymeric nanomaterials specific modification and provide vital information for the development of nano polymer based targeted drug delivery systems.
Nano metals and nano metal oxides have intrinsically high antimicrobial and UV blocking properties and as such have found their way into a variety of applications such as cosmetics, food contact materials, and medical devices. The Nanolab research produces a variety of novel nano metal-containing composites and using a variety of physical, chemical, and thermal stresses test the stability of the composites and quantify any nanomaterials released from the composite during the stress.
Studies of this nature allow realistic dose ranges and the effects of these doses to be evaluated which a consumer of a nanomaterial-based product could potentially be exposed to through a variety of exposure scenarios depending on the product's function.
Traditionally the group has an extensive history with carbonaceous nanomaterials currently Carbon Nanotubes (CNT) are the main form of nanocarbon under study. The research centre is exploring a range of novel purification methods involving both synthetic and natural systems which will lead to a more precise characterization of their electronic and optical properties.
In the biological aspects of Nanolab’s activities, CNT was used to highlight the intrinsic difficulties in the toxicological evaluation of nanomaterials with standard methodology resulting in false positive and negative toxicological data being evaluated in early studies worldwide. CNT has been used by the centre as an example nano test species on how to validate, adapt and develop new protocols for biological testing at the nanoscale. Studies of this nature are crucial for the safe implementation of nanotechnology in consumer-based products.
Our research in this area mainly focusses on nanoscale physical-chemistry and bionano-interactions. We develop and employ computational and theoretical tools to study soft matter systems such as nanoparticle-protein interactions, protein corona formation and proteins in crowded environments. Additionally, we work on the developing of coarse-grained models for proteins and nanoparticles. We also employ machine learning techniques to characterize and classify nanoparticles.
Nanolab has a dedicated team focused on the sociological impacts of nanotechnology it is actively engaged in the assessment of public awareness and perceptions of nanotechnology, the requirements of third level student’s educational structure to pursue careers in nanotechnology, and is currently involved in the formation of a structured PhD programme for third level institutions on nanotechnology.