To Make Gold Nanoparticles, Add a Dash of Cinnamon

By Jennifer Welsh | November 30, 2010 2:32 pm

mmmmm....tastes-like-nanoparticles“Is it just me, or do these gold nanoparticles taste like apple pie?”

Ok, you probably won’t hear that one around the lab (taste-testing the nano-gold is a strict no-no), but researchers have discovered a way to replace the toxic chemicals typically used to make gold nanoparticles with cinnamon.

Researcher Raghuraman Kannan explains in the press release:

“The procedure we have developed is non-toxic,” Kannan said. “No chemicals are used in the generation of gold nanoparticles, except gold salts. It is a true ‘green’ process.”

The cinnamon takes the place of the toxic agents that remove the gold particles from gold salts, explains Popular Science:

There are several ways to produce gold particles, but most involve dissolving chloroauric acid, also called gold salts, in liquid and adding chemicals to precipitate gold atoms. Common mixtures include sodium citrates, sodium borohydride (also used to bleach wood pulp) and ammonium compounds.

Sodium borohydride is corrosive, toxic, and flammable while tetraoctylammonium bromide and sodium citrates are irritants. The different ways to make gold nanoparticles each have different starting chemicals and byproducts, many of which are toxic.

In Kannan’s new procedure, the gold particles are isolated simply by stirring gold salts, cinnamon, and water together at room temperature.  What they get out of that recipe is a combination of gold nanoparticles and phytochemicals from the cinnamon.

Gold nanoparticles have potential in many different fields–from medical treatments to electronics–because they can be absorbed by cells, and because they have unique optical and electronic properties. When the researchers tested the particles created by the new process, they found they were safe and non-toxic. The nanoparticles were also able to deliver the phytochemicals to cancer cells, where they could help destroy or image the cells.

It’s important to consider the health and environmental impacts of new technologies, Kannan said in the press release:

“On one hand, you are trying to create a new, useful technology. However, continuing to ignore the environmental effects is detrimental to the progress,” Kannan said.

With so much hype about nanotechnology and how it will change the world, it’s nice to hear about research that’s trying to keep it from harming the world at the same time–even if it might raise prices at Cinnabon.

Related Content:
Discoblog: Did a Guy Find a Cure for Cancer Using Pie Tins and Hot Dogs?
Discoblog: The Tiny Robot that Can Crawl Through Your Veins—And Treat Your Tumors
Discoblog: Nano Snacks! Researchers Say Edible Nanostructures Taste Like Saltines
80beats: Golden Nanocages Could Deliver Cancer Drugs to Tumors
DISCOVER: World’s Tiniest Scale Can Weigh Individual Molecules

Image: flickr / pamramsey

  • Georg

    “Common mixtures include sodium citrates, sodium borohydride (also used to bleach wood pulp) and ammonium compounds, all of which can be toxic to humans and the environment.”

    I seldom have read more concentrated nonsense!

  • Jezebel

    “‘The procedure we have developed is non-toxic,’ Kannan said. ‘No chemicals are used in the generation of gold nanoparticles, except gold salts. It is a true ‘green’ process.'”

    No chemicals, huh. So what’s the gold then? or the phytochemicals? Scientists ought to be more careful with their words.

  • Dunbar

    Come on, sodium citrate is toxic?

  • Jennifer Welsh


    Thanks for the heads up, I’ve updated the post.


  • Karl

    Uh oh, Better stop eating anything with citric acid!


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.

See More

Collapse bottom bar

Login to your Account

E-mail address:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »