Technologies   Carbon Nanomaterials

Nanotechnology - Carbon Nanomaterials

Nanotechnology refers to engineering materials at the atomic scale: the size of nanometers. Richard Smalley, Robert Curl and Harold Kroto (currently a technical advisor to Luna) were awarded the Nobel prize for their discovery of a spherical crystal form of carbon they named a buckminsterfullerene for its resemblance to the geodesic shape that architect incorporated in many of his designs. The original fullerene sphere, sometimes called a "Buckyball," contained 60 carbon atoms bound by single and double bonds that form a three dimensional geodesic spheroidal crystal. Since that discovery other related forms have included larger spheres. Collectively these materials are called fullerenes.

Fullerene structures have a number of unusual properties (chemical, physical and biological) that are significantly different from other organic materials. They are comprised of pure carbon, hence insoluble in water and in many organic solvents. Fullerenes also have an intrinsic thirst for absorbing free radicals, which are molecules that have an uneven number of electrons. Having an uneven number of electrons makes a molecule unstable because the electrons want to mate. The reactive molecule may attach to another molecule to make itself more stable. Sometimes this starts a chain reaction that can harm the cells. This chain reaction of free radicals may be responsible for numerous age-related diseases. Fullerenes are exceptional free radical scavengers, or antioxidants which can intercept free radicals and neutralize them before they cause harm. An area of development at Luna is supplementing natural anti-oxidants with fullerenes to treat conditions where free radicals cause chronic health problems.

A graphic of Luna's TRIMETASPHERE carbon nanomaterial.
Luna's proprietary TRIMETASPHERE® carbon nanomaterials are hollow molecules of carbon that encapsulate nitride metal atoms. Luna is developing these unique molecules for applications in medical and alternative energy. This metallofullerene was licensed from Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties under U.S. Patents: 6,303,760.
A class of novel fullerenes comprising 80 carbons (C80) forming a sphere which encloses a complex of three metal atoms and one nitrogen atom were discovered at Virginia Tech. Luna licensed the patent for these nanomaterials and named them TRIMETASPHERE® carbon nanomaterials. Since these fullerenes encapsulate metals it puts them in the subset referred to as metallofullerenes. Carbon nanomaterials have the potential for use in diagnostics as safe imaging agents and in therapeutics targeting and treating diseases.

The entrapped metals of TRIMETASPHERE® carbon nanomaterials provide unique physical, chemical, thermal, magnetic, biological, optical and electronic properties that differentiate them from other carbon nanomaterials. TRIMETASPHERES have a unique electron configuration. The packed nitride cluster has a net charge of +6, and the fullerene cage has a compensating -6 charge. Thus while the overall charge is zero, the surface of the sphere presents the electronegative moiety of a potential dipole moment. This charge distribution affects the magnetic and chemical reactivity of the sphere, its ability to transfer electrons, and its biological behavior.

For many applications TRIMETASPHERE® carbon nanomaterials must be derivatized. It is possible to attach one or more side chains to functionalize the TRIMETASPHERE for specific applications. By chemical modification of the surface of TRIMETASPHERE carbon nanomaterials with the metal gadolinium inside (Gd3N@C80), scientists at Luna have invented a new family of molecules named HYDROCHALARONE™ [ hī-drō-kal-a-rōne ]. The name comes from the words Hydro, meaning water and Chalaro, the Greek word for relax. Relaxivity is a measurement of the relative amount of contrast provided by media used in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) that helps to provide a meaningful image.

By chemical modification of the surface of a TRIMETASPHERE with the metal gadolinium inside, scientists at Luna have invented a new family of nanomaterials named HYDROCHALARONE. The image above is a hypothetical depiction of what this new variety of molecule might look like.
See more on how these molecules may be applied.
Luna's HYDROCHALARONE™ nanomaterials have unique properties which we plan to develop into exciting products in the pharmaceutical industry. An early commercial application is the next generation of medical diagnostic agents. Luna has demonstrated its contrast agent prototype in mouse studies which show the potential to provide a better quality image. Additionally, Luna's MRI contrast agent prototype has the potential to be safer for use in medical imaging versus today's gadolinium chelate-based agents which are the subject of class-action lawsuit concerns. Read more about the warnings of gadolinium-containing contrast agents from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Luna is also exploring the use of its exclusive carbon nanomaterials in targeted diagnostics, enabling physicians to precisely locate cancer cells, blood clots, etc. These products could lead to better understanding of the treatment options for such health conditions such as heart disease and cancer. Luna is building a portfolio of nanomedicines aimed at disease targeting and diagnostic imaging based on their new HYDROCHALARONE™ family of molecules.

For more information on carbon nanomaterial technologies, emerging products and costs, e-mail , or call 1.434.483.4200.