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Small, With Power-Packed Potential: New Process to Make Nanospheres Developed at NDSU

March 26, 2013, Fargo, N.D. – A patent-pending technology to produce nanospheres developed by a research team at North Dakota State University, Fargo, could enable advances across multiple industries, including electronics, manufacturing, and biomedical sectors.

The environmentally-friendly process produces polymer-based nanospheres (tiny microscopic particles) that are uniform in size and shape, while being low-cost and easily reproducible. The process developed at NDSU allows scale-up of operation to high production levels, without requiring specialized manufacturing equipment.

A 3 a.m. Eureka! Moment

Picture of Gelling in the labDr. Victoria Gelling, associate professor in the Department of Coatings and Polymeric Materials at NDSU, had a “Eureka!” moment when she woke early one morning – 3 a.m., to be precise, an hour when most of us are still sleeping. Gelling used  early morning creativity to imagine a new way to oxidize monomers, which are relatively small and simple molecules, into polymers, which are larger, more complex molecules that can be used to create synthetic materials. Dr. Gelling hypothesized that oxidizing ozone in water might accomplish this task.

Later that day in the lab, Dr. Gelling and her team tested the hypothesis. On the first try, they created a suspension of nearly perfectly rounded, uniformly-sized nanospheres, ranging from 70 to 400 nanometers in diameter. In addition to their uniform size, the nanospheres stay suspended in the solution, and are easily removed using a centrifuge.

“The synthesis of the nanospheres is rather simple, with no other chemicals required other than water, ozone, and the small molecules which will become the polymers,” said Gelling. “We also have tight control of the size, as they are beautiful, perfect marbles.”

Magnafied image of Nanospheres SEMGiven their uniform size and shape, the nanospheres could have uses across multiple industries. According to Dr. Gelling, such nanospheres could be used to: 

-Produce high-performance electronic devices and energy-efficient digital displays
-Create materials with high conductivity and smaller parts for consumer electronics
-Deliver medicine directly to diseased cells in the body
-Provide antibacterial coating on dressing for wounds
-Develop nanosensors to aid in early disease detection
-Create coatings that provide increased protection against corrosion and abrasion

Magnafied image of Nanosheres TEMThe process to develop nanospheres discovered at NDSU’s Department of Coatings and Polymeric Materials was developed with support under Grant Number W911NF-09-2-0014, awarded by the U. S. Army Research Office.

NDSU’s research team for this technology includes Dr. Victoria Gelling, graduate research assistant Abhijit Jagnnath Suryawanshi, Omerga, MS, India; Chris Vetter, MS ’11, Moorhead, Minn., and Jessica Lamb, Fargo, N.D., now a graduate student at Cornell University.

The patent pending nanospheres technology is available for licensing/partnering through the NDSU Research Foundation. Contact 701-231-8173 or

A brief video describing the NDSU-developed nanospheres is available at

Additional information about this technology and other NDSU innovations available for licensing are available at

About the NDSU Research Foundation
The NDSU Research Foundation is an independent, not-for-profit organization that supports NDSU in its teaching, research and public service missions. The Foundation manages the intellectual properties developed by faculty, staff and students doing research at NDSU and facilitates commercialization of these technologies. By commercializing intellectual property, the Foundation is able to create resources that are returned to the individual inventors and to the University to promote continued research.

About NDSU
, Fargo, North Dakota, USA, is notably listed among the top 108 U.S. public and private universities in the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education’s category of “Research Universities/Very High Research Activity.” As a student-focused, land grant, research institution, NDSU is listed in the Top 100 research universities in the U.S. for R&D in computer science, chemistry, physical sciences, psychology, social sciences, and agricultural sciences, based on research expenditures reported to the National Science Foundation.

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Last Updated: Wednesday, January 28, 2015 3:47:32 PM
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