What Are Magnetic Nanoparticles?

Mary McMahon

Magnetic nanoparticles are extremely small particles of materials that will respond to magnetic fields. Particles on the nanoscale have a number of uses in applications ranging from medical treatment to the development of new paints and pigments. The base materials for magnetic nanoparticles include metals like iron, cobalt, and nickel, and a number of production methods can be used to create them in labs and manufacturing facilities. Costs vary, depending on the materials and the size of the particles, and there may be special considerations like concerns about shipping and handling that could increase pricing.

Nanorobotics uses nanotechnology to develop microscopic robots that are far smaller in width than a strand of human hair.
Nanorobotics uses nanotechnology to develop microscopic robots that are far smaller in width than a strand of human hair.

Behavior of magnetic nanoparticles in a magnetic field can depend on the size and composition of the particles, the strength of the field, and any obstacles that may be in the way. One potential application of such particles is in medical treatment; research shows, for example, that these particles can heat up in a magnetic field. Targeted particles aimed at tumors and other tissues can be heated with the use of magnetism for minimally invasive tissue ablation in the treatment of cancers and other medical conditions.

One issue with the use of magnetic nanoparticles in medical treatment is the risk of allergic reactions. While these materials are not known to be dangerous inside the human body, in the concentrations needed for medical therapy, they might be able to trigger an immune response. This could make the patient more ill with a cascading series of inflammatory reactions as the body attempts to fight the invader. Clinical trials can determine the level of risk and may uncover various approaches to mitigating the risk of such reactions.

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They can also be used in information storage, with a potential for very high capacity storage through the use of magnetic nanoparticles. The development of very small, dense storage media is critical for a number of industries as the demands for storage space increase while consumers expect to see decreases in size for devices like external hard drives and thumb drives. Other nanotechnology applications can include use in scientific research, environmental remediation, and in chemical processes where catalysts may be necessary.

Manufacturers of magnetic nanoparticles may have a regular product lineup as well as custom products. Customers can order particles of specific size or composition for particular projects. The costs for custom nanoparticles may decrease with larger orders as part of a bulk pricing scheme, but can also depend on which materials and processes are used in their manufacture.

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