Transcript - Episode 1 - About us!
Updated: Jul 2, 2021
Here is the content from our inaugural episode! Catch it on Youtube, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts! All content is available for free on our website :)
Irfani: Welcome to the inaugural episode of IMNANO
Monika: Where we introduce you to world of nanoscience and nanotechnology
I: I’m your host Irfani
M: and I am your other host Monika
I: Today we are going to introduce ourselves and why we love nano!
M: putting the I in IM Nano let’s hear about Irfani’s story first - so Irfani, please tell us a little bit about yourself!
I: I spent my early years in Indonesia as a little girl and then moved to Malaysia and spent a few years in Japan for my middle and high school years. When I decided where I wanted to go for college, I wanted to go somewhere that would allow me to pursue a career in the medical field. While weighing out all the factors, I decided to do an undergraduate degree in Physiology, which is a field of scientific study of the functions and activities of living matter.
M: Wow Sugoi! 😉 So how did you end up doing nanotechnology for graduate school?
I: At some point during the my undergraduate years, I realized that going to medical school wasn’t something I was interested in anymore. But after working in an immunology/infectious agents lab and a cell biology lab I knew that I still wanted to be in the healthcare field. After talking to different professors and people, I made the realization that I wanted to contribute in the technology aspect of healthcare. Within the realm of healthcare technology, I was more interested in the sensing aspect because if we can diagnose/detect signs of the diseases early, we can help the patient be healthier sooner. This is where I started getting really interested in using nanomaterials/nanotechnology to develop biosensors.
M: OO that sounds interesting! Now, what are biosensors?
I: Biosensors are devices that can detect the concentration of biological components from a biological sample.
M: Are biosensors relatively new or has it been around for a while?
I: They are relatively new. The first one was developed by Leland C. Clark in 1956 for the detection of oxygen and the sensor is called the Clark electrode. His discovery is so important that it bears his name!
M: What is this Clark electrode?
I: It’s a tube that contains an electrode, a conductive material, and protected by a porous material, that electrically detects the concentration of oxygen in blood! This allowed surgeons to monitor the oxygen levels of patients during cardiopulmonary bypass surgeries. This was a huge feat of technology! He further developed first glucose sensor prototype by placing glucose enzymes on electrodes.
Since then, there are many different types of biosensors that detects these biological components through various techniques.
M: That’s amazing! It’s such a simple chemical set up but he was able to develop it into this device that facilitate lifesaving surgeries. And to think now biosensors are all around us, especially the glucose strips for diabetic patients, Prof. Clark has significantly changed all our lives.
So that was back in the 1950s and approximately 70 years have passed. Significant improvements must have been made since then. How has nanotechnology contributed to the development of biosensors? Let’s start with, what is nanotechnology?
I: Nanotechnology is essentially the study of materials at the nanoscale. These materials are a billion times smaller than a meter stick! They are very small but are powerful materials! This then allows the miniaturization of the sensor themselves and doesn’t require a large volume of sample. This is great news to me because whenever I go get blood test, the nurses draw out a few milliliters of my blood. With nanotechnology-based sensors, we only need a few microliters! Another amazing thing about these nanomaterials is their high surface area-to-volume ratio which helps to make the biosensors more sensitive and accurate!
M: That’s amazing! So it’s similar to the Stark Medical Scanner that Iron Man used in the second moviethat time to measure his Palladium levels to measure his blood toxicity?
I: Yes! Some are already in the market such as the pregnancy test that used gold nanoparticles!
M: That's so cool! Movie magic comes to life! So, what kind of research do you do now for PhD?
I: I am currently working developing transdermal carbon nanotube biohybrid biosensors for the real-time monitoring of lactate levels. But it can be translated to other targets such as glucose.
M: Carbon nanotubes are the nanomaterials that you use right? What are they?
I: Hmm..good question! Think of them like hollow tube made of carbon atoms but the carbon atoms are arranged like a honeycomb structure that can conduct electricity and is a billion times smaller!
M: Oh wow, so that means they’re invisible to the naked eye and can only be visualized using special microscopes, right?
I: Yes! They’re that small!
M: So what do you do with the carbon nanotubes?
I: I treat them with various molecules including chains of polymers and proteins to make them more stable, sensitive, and accurate. As I mentioned before, nanomaterials have a high surface area, so with these carbon nanotubes, I can load more enzymes that increases the signal when it is in contact with the biological component or biomarker.
M: So that means we can get real-time measurements of various biomarkers? As in instant information on molecules in our blood stream?
I: Yes! And I am working of making the sensor to be a transdermal sensor meaning that it has microneedles, these are small needles that won’t hurt as much as catheters, that will extract a small amount of blood from your skin continuously.
M: That’s super cool, it’s like those apple watches but this time you detect biomarkers in your blood!
I: Yes, imagine that you are able to monitor how the levels fluctuate over time and you’ll be able to know if you are healthy of need to make changes in your lifestyle!
M: That’s the future right there folks! Thank you so much for sharing! I can’t wait to talk more about it and hear about the progress of the project! Now, if you could go back in time and meet anyone, who would it be and why?
I: Hm..this is hard...there are many wonderful amazing scientists that I would love to meet. I definitely would love to meet Marie Curie!
M: Yess Marie Curie! She is amazing!
I: yea! She was the first woman to be awarded in the Nobel Prize for her work in radiation along with her husband Pierre Curie and Prof. Henri Becquerel. She is also the only woman to ever receive the Nobel Prize twice! She is such an accomplished scientist. And to know that she did it during a time when women in science is not as common as today is astounding. Her husband Pierre was an advocate for women in science and he made sure that she was included in the first nobel prize!
M: Gotta get a man like that. That’s a keeper right there!
I: Yes, for sure. Dr. CUrie is amazing but there are also other amazing scientists that we will get to know later! Now, Monika, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
M: So I’m not quite as Internationally broad in terms of my schooling, I am southern Ontario educated, originally as part of the fraco-ontarien community and then once in university all in english, so I can comment on making the switch it is a challenging but certainly doable. My undergraduate education was in nanoscience. During undergrad I worked in nutrition, analytical vaccine chemistry lab, food science, and electrochemistry. in my final year I ended up taking an organic chemistry course, loved it, then moved up taking all the organic courses 1-4, which landed me a position in an organo sulfur synthesis lab fancy way of saying a made white powders our products, that had sulfur in them as my masters. So for PhD, I found that I liked the nano- but also the organic, so then I decided to combine the two, “ organic materials” where I made small tweezers that can grab on to “carbon nanotubes” and align them.
I: That’s quite a unique combination of science! Organic chemistry and nanotechnology is not very common is it? Can you tell us more!?
M: Basically, organic chem instead of drug molecules using them for applications in soler cells or transistors
I: oh cool what is a transistor?
M: Transistors – switches, typically from silicon, but we are reaching the physical limits of how many transistors per chip we can fit, that tends to doable every two years which was an observation made , Dr. Gordon Moore,1954, he likes to fish in his spare time, 1965 - Moore’s law postulation
I: Are transistors like light switches that can control if electricity is on or off?
M: yes like light switches, they control when our computers or cellphones turn on and off
I: These transistors are everywhere in our electronic devices right?
M: absulutly yes, and they keep getting smaller so that we can fit more of them in our electronics
SO now as of 2020, we have 5 nm transistors (apple’s A14 bionic) and FinFETs (shark fins), but nanomaterials have better scalability and transport of the current, especially carbon nanotubes, like you, but using them for the devices in our cellphones or computers, because they can be excellent semiconductors
I: what is a semiconductor?
M: So, for transporting electricity, usually we have metals – which conduct electricity, like gold, silver, copper– which is the reason you should remove your jewelry when doing electrical work, otherwise you’re at risk of being electrocuted!
Then there are insulators, non-conductors, which do not conduct anything at all, trap the electrons and do not let them flow, like rubber, plastic, wood,
Now here is where things get interesting, diamond – it's made from carbon under pressure, carbon is coal, element number 6, it is the reason for organic chemistry, its everywhere, diamond is single bonds
CNTs – because of their structure, of double bonds, they can be either metallic or semiconducting, meaning they behave like a metal sometimes, and can conduct electricity sometimes, in the proper conditions, another semiconductor is silicon, why we use it in switches, switching between ON and OFF depending on the conditions (voltage, current)
That is the reason for wanting the CNTs - we want these specific semiconduting tubes that are very small but perform better than silicon to make better devices, but it’s a challenge to get the speicfic types, not have any metallic ones, because then you can’t turn on or off, so they have to be semiconducting, they have to sraight in a line to work the best, so that was my phD trying to straighten these guys out!
I: very interesting! So what does this mean? Will we get even more powerful computers than what we have now?
M: that is the idea!
I: Wow that is amazing. I think we powerful computers all around us already but if we can have a powerful computer on the tips of our hands, that is amazing!
Ok so same question, if you could go back in time, who would you want to meet?
M: So, you picked one of the most influential people in the past 100 years, marie curie amazing scientist completely agree
I think if I could go back, I would go to about 200-300 AD, (3rd century) to Alexandria, where it said that Cleopatra the Alchemist was rumored to have worked, not to be confused with Cleopatra the queen of Egypt. So, this cleopatra is an alias it could be one lady or a group. Like with many alchemists, she worked toward creating the philosopher’s stone – so trying to turn common metals into gold and find the elixir of life. And she is one of four female alchemists that were noted to create the philosopher’s stone. This cleopatra is also considered the inventor of a specific distillation systems, so water purification system, know as the alembic, that is still used for purifying cognac to this day. So I could learn a lot from here and would love to meet her.
I: That is amazing! And this system is still used in laboratories today! It’s astounding that this system lasted for almost two millenia! Seems like we both love CNTs, get out diamond, CNTs are a girl’s best friend!
Very cool it is interesting how we had two very different paths and found our way to using nanotechnology in different ways
M: I think this speaks to the broad and diverse applications of nanotech and the impact it can have. In fact, even in the angry birds 2 movie nanoscience is mentioned as a means of getting the lave inside the ice balls to attack the neighboring bird island so it is becoming more mainstream but it is important to also understand what is reality and what is still fiction.
I: So pretty much nanotechnology can help improve many aspects of our lives, the good and the bad, as there are certain toxicity effects that we do not yet understand
M: yes, nanotoxicology, and over the course of the series, we will delve into clarifying terms and terminology and misconceptions -
I: Alright that’s all the nano for today, take care!
M: Stay curious!
Biosensors: Bhalla, N., Jolly, P., Formisano, N., & Estrela, P. (2016). Introduction to biosensors. Essays in biochemistry, 60(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1042/EBC20150001 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4986445/#B5
Heineman, W. R., & Jensen, W. B. (2006). Leland C. clark jr. (1918–2005). Biosensors and Bioelectronics, 21(8), 1403-1404. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bios.2005.12.005
Nobel Lectures, Physics 1901-1921, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1967 https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/1903/marie-curie/biographical/
Linden, Stanton J. The Alchemy Reader: From Hermes Trismegistus to Isaac Newton. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010. Print.
Cypert, Victor. “Cleopatra the alchemist: sketch of a philanthropist” 17 July, 2017. https://cannotbecontained.com/2017/07/17/cleopatra-the-alchemist-sketch-of-a-philanthropist/ Accessed December 2020
Day, Kat. “Women Who Ignored the Limits.” The Chronicle Flask. 26 March 2013. https://chronicleflask.com/2013/03/26/women-who-ignored-the-limits-five-famous-female-chemists/, Accessed December 2020
Lack, Hannah. “ Cleopatra: The ancient alchemist who quested for gold” 29th April 2020. https://www.cnn.com/style/article/cleopatra-alchemist-louboutin/index.html Accessed December 2020.