Nanotechnology: what are they and how are nanomaterials applied in Argentina

In Argentina, the use of nanotechnology, a science that studies matter on a very small scale, finds solutions in multidisciplinary fields, from agriculture to medicine, where, for example, “nanomaterials” are used as reactive agents for the change of color in pregnancy tests

Companies, private and public institutions, research groups and professionals make up a diverse work ecosystem in which they generate innovations within the nanotechnological universe.

More than two thousand male and female researchers make up this network, in which Galo Soller Illia and María Alejandra Molina stand out, winners of the 2022 Bunge y Born Foundation award and the 2022 Stimulus award -which have been awarded since 1964 and have been awarded to the Argentine Nobel Prize for Chemistry, Luis Federico Leloir, Roberto Salvarezza and Gabriel Rabinovich, among others.

This type of project makes it possible to work on such small scales that “it allows technologies to be incorporated into elements where it was not possible before” and thus “change the way of seeing matter and control it in an unprecedented way”, explains the Foundation.

What is studied in the country

the dean of Institute of Nanosystems of the School of Bio and Nanotechnologies of the National University of San Martín (INS EEyN UNSAM), Galo Soller Illia, carried out the design and production of “nanosystems with intelligent architectures and custom properties” where uses “nanoporous materials with applications in health, environment and renewable energies”.

The advancement of these techniques helps “the intelligent recovery of precious metals in urban mining” that prevents polluting effects and, on the other hand, achieves “the recovery and use of strategic substances for technological development”.

Credit: Pexels

In a conversation with AUNO, the doctor in Chemical Sciences explained that “mesoporous materials are like small sponges with very tiny pores” that absorb and recover polluting metals waste by mining companies in “lagoons or tailings dams”.

In addition, he stressed that “they serve as a small sponge in which to store other chemical substances that are later released in a controlled manner” such as fertilizers or herbicides for agriculture or insect repellents.

Another of its functions is that of “strainer to let certain molecules pass” and thus use them as a “sensor” to detect certain types of “biomolecules”.

María Alejandra Molina, independent investigator of the CONICETdeveloping nanogels used for the application of “advanced therapies in biomedicine and veterinary”and that react to stimuli such as light and temperature.

The expert carried out the process through three lines of research: the first focuses on bacteria resistant to antibiotics that managed to “effectively eliminate” old infections that were believed to be eradicated.

molina, researcher, conicet, nanotechnology, science, chemistry
Credit: Bunge & Born Foundation

On the other hand, he studied the use of thermo and photosensitive nanogels in anticancer therapies which increased “efficacy” and reduced “adverse effects” in cancer treatments. And in addition, he used them as controlled release systems for active ingredients, which improved veterinary vaccines.

In dialogue with AUNO, the researcher commented that the contest’s selection methodology is “one of the most interesting things about the award ceremony” since she did not apply but was “chosen by her colleagues”.

“Being recognized as a person who deserves an award in the area of ​​nanosciences is an honor and a pride,” she said, stressing that it leaves her in a “situation of commitment to continue advancing on the subject.”

What are the challenges of nanotechnology in Argentina

Soller Illia stressed to AUNO that “today the nanoscience community in Argentina is quite consolidated” and that the challenges faced by nanotechnology in the country “they are maintaining knowledge and creating new ones”. However, there is a very big challenge to “generate infrastructure” and he clarified that “electron microscopes are lacking; sophisticated techniques” for the proper development and operation of investigations.

In the next few years a neutron reactor will arrive at the Argentine Laboratory of Neutron Beams (LAHN) in which they will carry out the “characterization of materials”, valued the doctor in Chemical Sciences and considered that it will be “a great opportunity”.

conicet, galo, soler, illia, investigation
Photo: Bunge & Born Foundation

On the other hand, he noted the lack of communication that exists between scientific careerscalling them “rigid”, and remarked that “it is not easy to have science students who can work in an interdisciplinary way”.

For this reason, he argued that it is necessary to “rediscuss” the university system and academic careers; “rediscuss the scientific system and make more private investments enter”, so that the discipline has a prosperous future.

Nanotechnology in everyday life?

Soller Illia expressed that “there are many applications made in Argentina such as disease sensors; the Conicet chinstraps and there are also uses in antibacterials”, in relation to the different uses that nanotechnology has.

The impact on their daily use can be seen when starting modern cars in which there is a “catalyst in the exhaust pipe that purifies polluting molecules” or in “the Conicet chinstraps” that eliminate microorganisms through “small silver particles”, among others. .

In addition, the researcher stated that there were very important “national developments” during the pandemic that show “the impact that nanotechnological advances can have” to generate solutions in the community “in the face of emergency situations”.

Nanotechnology and COVID-19

The covid-19 pandemic brought many challenges for scientists around the world, but the progress and speed with which objectives were achieved had to do -also- with the development of nanotechnological solutions.

A hyperimmune serum, nanoparticles in chinstraps and diagnostic kits are some of the cases of work carried out in the country with the help of nanosciences to help detect and prevent the virus.

covid, research, microscope, nanoscience
Credit: Pexels

The diagnostic kitsfor example, use nanomaterials that function as reactive agents against the presence of the virus or the “RNA amplified viral” -that is, the genesis of the virus-, using the same logic as pregnancy tests.

The scaled progress of the vaccines against SARs-CoV-2, which made it possible to “encode” the RNA – a component necessary to generate antibodies – was closely related to previous investigations in the nanotechnological world, according to scientific reports.

The awards ceremony will be held on September 20 at the Cultural Center of Science and will be broadcast through

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Nanotechnology: what are they and how are nanomaterials applied in Argentina