John Heddleston, Mark M. Bailey, and Angela R. Hight Walker


Carbon nanostructures such as single-wall nanotubes and graphene oxide have unique properties that could be applied to medicine and chemical/biological defense in order to solve complex and critically important issues. Overcoming the material and metrological challenges associated with carbon nanostructures is a task NIST is exceptionally well-suited to address. Bridging the knowledge gap and utilizing these unique materials in biological systems could bring about significant leaps forward in treatment of deadly diseases, detection of harmful biological agents, or as powerful prophylactics against chemical weapons.


In brain tumors like glioblastoma the presence of low oxygen (hypoxia) within the tumor has been significantly correlated to poor patient outcome. Unfortunately the current state of clinical identification of hypoxic regions rely on millimeter or larger spatial resolution techniques such as PET or MRI. However in order to effectively target cancer cells within solid tissue, targeting with micron-scale accuracy is required. Functionalized single-wall carbon nanotubes can be used to prevent tumor recurrence by targeting rare cell populations within low oxygen regions of the tumor.


World events in the past decade have emphasized the need to develop novel, functional materials that could safely neutralize chemical warfare (CW) agents in situ or rapidly detect biological warfare agents to protect military personnel and civilians from exposure.  Chemical modification of SWCNT threads and fabrics could lead to multifunctional materials that impart chemical functionality to a mechanically strong substrate, for example high strength threads containing catalytic sites that destroy CW agents immediately upon exposure.  Functionalized thin graphene sheets can act as sensor substrates against biological weapons like Anthrax, allowing for rapid detection and response in the event of a biowarfare attack.