Tag Archives: kinematics

Toxic nanoparticles?

My obsession with kinematics and kinetics over the past few posts is connected to my recent trip to Italy [see my post last week] as part of a research project on the mechanics of nanoparticles.  We are interested in the toxicological effect of nanoparticles on biological cells.  Nanoparticles are finding lots of applications but we don’t completely understand their interaction with cells and organs in the body.  We are interested in particles with diameters around 10 nanometres.  The diameter of a human hair is 10,000 times bigger.  The small size of these particles has potential implications for their kinematics and kinetics as they move through the body.  We know that protein molecules can attach themselves to nanoparticles forming a corona and as part of our research we are looking at how that influences the motion of the particle.  For instance, it might be appropriate to use kinematics for a spherical metallic nanoparticle but kinetics for one with a corona.

Some of you might be thinking, why go to Italy?  Well, other than for the coffee, I have been working with a colleague there for some time on methods of tracking nanoparticles that are below the resolution of optical microscopes.  We have named the technique ‘nanoscopy’ and it allows us to look at live cells and nanoparticles simultaneously without damaging the cell.  So our current research is an extension of the earlier work (see the two papers referenced below).  Of course the more basic answer is that we get on and are very productive together.

BTW – we can’t ‘see’ our nanoparticles because visible light has wavelengths about fifty times larger than the particles, so light waves pass single particles without being reflected into our eyes or camera.  However, a particle does disturb the light wave and produce a weak optical signature, which we utilise in nanoscopy.

Research papers available on-line at:



No coffee till Christmas

coffeeNot a decision to give up caffeine until the festive season but a remark by my Italian research student as he finished his cup of coffee on the flight back to England.  He doesn’t consider what we serve in the UK to be coffee and he won’t be back in Italy until the Christmas vacation.  We were in Italy visiting the laboratory with which we are collaborating on his research project.  He is right, the coffee gets much better as you move south and east from the US and UK.

Next time you are enjoying a cup of coffee watch the swirls created as you or a friend stirs in some cream.  You can see streak lines that show the path of the cream in the coffee and reveal the fluid flow in your cup.  It is even better if you have a clear glass.  You can use this as an Everyday Engineering Example to capture students’ attention and to illustrate the kinematics of fluids as in the 5E lesson plan below.