Sustainable nanotechnology center lands new $20 million contract

The Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology, a multi-institutional research center based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has inked a new contract with the National Science Foundation (NSF) that will provide nearly $20 million in support over the next five years.

The UW-Madison news release about the award highlights the work of soil science professor Joel Pederson, a co-PI on the grant. Pederson leads a group of scientists exploring how nanoparticles impact living organisms, with the big-picture goal of making sure nanotech products are safe for humans, animals and the environment.

Here’s the description of Pederson’s nano-related research, from the release:

Pedersen’s group, for example, is studying the complexities of how nanoparticles interact with cells and, in particular, their surface membranes.

“To enter a cell, a nanoparticle has to interact with a membrane,” notes Pedersen. “The simplest thing that can happen is the particle sticks to the cell. But it might cause toxicity or make a hole in the membrane.”

Pedersen’s group can make model cell membranes in the lab using the same lipids and proteins that are the building blocks of nature’s cells. By exposing the lab-made membranes to nanomaterials now used commercially, Pedersen and his colleagues can see how the membrane-particle interaction unfolds at the molecular level — the scale necessary to begin to understand the biological effects of the particles.

Read the full release here.