Nanoparticles can play many roles, but they're more often used for tagging and sorting molecules rather than for participating in chemical reactions. Nanoscale bits with magnetic properties, for instance, can enhance magnetic resonance images and can tag other molecules in chemical assays. But researchers have now shown that nanoparticles of magnetite (Fe3O4) can play an active chemical role with catalytic muscle applicable to wastewater treatment and biomedical assays.
The nanoparticles can catalyze the same reactions prompted by peroxidases, enzymes that can clean up wastewater and also help researchers detect small amounts of molecules in diagnostic medical assays. Though previously unknown, the chemistry of the magnetite nanoparticles makes sense, report Sarah Perrett and her colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. The nanoparticles are comparable to a mixture of iron ions and hydrogen peroxide—known as Fenton's reagent—that oxidizes organic