Spontaneous science: Researchers report spontaneous case of vesicle formation

March 1, 2013 by Karen B. Roberts
The research team of UD's Norman J. Wagner has reported a spontaneous case of vesicle formation in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. Credit: Evan Krape

(Phys.org) —A University of Delaware research group has reported a spontaneous case of vesicle formation in the Journal of American Chemistry. The discovery was recently highlighted on the journal cover and the significance discussed in a Spotlight article.

Vesicles are fluid filled membranes or sacs useful for their ability to contain things. In the body, for example, they can be used in , where a drug is placed in a vesicle and then self-directed to a particular location.

In nature, however, few reports of spontaneous vesicle formation exist.

"That's what makes this discovery special," explains Norman J. Wagner, Alvin B. and Julia O. Stiles Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Working in the laboratory, Wagner's research team was experimenting with surfactants and , a special class of materials that include organic salts that are liquid, not solid, at room temperature. Ionic liquids operate over a large temperature range and don't evaporate readily. According to Wagner, they are thought to be an avenue toward .

In another application, Wagner is also working with NASA scientists and engineers in using ionic liquids to protect astronauts and spacecraft in the of near earth orbit and extraterrestrial habitation. 

The team was working to understand how to control in ionic liquids as a replacement solution for cases where water cannot or should not be used.

The discovery of vesicles, however, was unexpected.

"We weren't looking for vesicles, rather we hoped to see sponge phases (three dimensional networked structures resembling sponges), lamellar phases (layered structures that look like a deck of cards) or rod formations," he said.

The team, which includes an industrial scientist, graduate student and undergraduate researcher, conducted extensive experimentation over a two-year period to validate that the were occurred naturally, and were not the result of processing, handling or impurities.

Now, the team will work to determine how this discovery can be leveraged from a scientific perspective.

"As molecular engineers, part of our goal is to apply this knowledge to control and harness the discovery to design new nanostructures," he said.

Explore further: Queen's chemists work with NASA to develop liquids for lunar telescope

More information: pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ja3117262

Related Stories

Scientists develope new agents to battle MRSA

March 25, 2009

Experts from Queen's University Belfast have developed new agents to fight MRSA and other hospital-acquired infections that are resistant to antibiotics. The fluids are a class of ionic liquids that not only kill colonies ...

Ionic Liquid's Makeup Measurably Non-Uniform at the Nanoscale

November 10, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at Texas Tech University, Queen's University in Belfast, Ireland, the University of Rome and the National Research Council in Italy recently made a discovery about the non-uniform chemical compositions ...

Scientists demonstrate novel ionic liquid batteries

April 15, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists at the NRL Materials Science and Technology Division are providing solid evidence that there is a new route towards developing novel, lightweight energy storage devices. By moving away from centuries ...

Silver ionic liquids are powerful solvents for oil industry

May 17, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The separation of olefins and paraffin, two hydrocarbon compounds in petroleum waste streams, is a heavy expense for the petrochemical industry. The existing technology consumes a lot of energy because the ...

Recommended for you

A new form of real gold, almost as light as air

November 25, 2015

Researchers at ETH Zurich have created a new type of foam made of real gold. It is the lightest form ever produced of the precious metal: a thousand times lighter than its conventional form and yet it is nearly impossible ...

Moonlighting molecules: Finding new uses for old enzymes

November 27, 2015

A collaboration between the University of Cambridge and MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, has led researchers to identify a potentially significant new application for a well-known ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2013
The precursor or an 'indispensable' for membranes?
Good work.
5 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2013
Fancy coacervates... not so surprising.
1 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2013
How widespread are naturally occurring vesicles? A question that has potential to harbor surprise.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.