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\Using the X-ray beams of The European Synchrotron (ESRF) they showed that the electrons absorbed and released by cerium dioxide nanoparticles during chemical reactions behave in a completely different way than previously thought: the electrons are not bound to individual atoms but, like a cloud, distribute themselves over the whole nanoparticle. Inspired by the similarity of its shape, the scientists call this spatial distribution of particles an "electron sponge."

In their experiment, the scientists were successful in observing the creation of the nanoparticles in solution and then how these nanoparticles eliminated highly reactive molecules (reactive oxygen species, or ROS) from the solution. This elimination process mimics the role of an important enzyme in living organisms -- catalase -- that protects cells from these aggressive molecules. Cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy have high levels of ROS in their bodies and ceria nanoparticles have been proposed as a way of reducing the levels of ROS and thus alleviating the negative impacts of the therapy on the patients. Throughout the chemical reaction, the electronic structure of the cerium atoms and thus the redistribution of the electron cloud was monitored. "It is crucial to be able to study the chemical processes of the particles in an environment that is close to conditions found in biological systems." emphasizes Victor Puntes.

Date: Nov. 12, 2013
Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131112123852.htm