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Evaluation of the purity and dispersion of single walled carbon nanotubes as potential pharmaceutical excipients



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Single walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) are considered potential biomedical materials because of their flexible structure, hollow interior for fluidic transport, propensity for functionalization of the exterior walls, and biocompatibility. Research into exploiting these properties has focused on SWNTs as building blocks for novel drug-delivery systems, dosage forms, and biomedical substrates. However, the use of the internal nanochannels as conduits for trans-membrane drug delivery has not been explored. This research was initially designed to explore the latter. It is postulated that due to their mechanical strength and the presence of an internal conduit, SWNTs can be used for nanofluidic transport. Using a magnetic field, the magnetically responsive SWNT are driven into intact stratum corneum, creating nanochannels, for trans-membrane drug delivery. Initial studies showed however that a bottleneck is the aggregation of SWNTs on the surface of stratum corneum. To achieve trans-membrane nanofluidic delivery, the SWNTs have to be well dispersed in an appropriate pharmaceutical medium, and the SWNT have to be of high purity. Similarly, the presence of impurities in SWNTs, and the dispersion state of these materials in pharmaceutical solvents may give an insight into the discrepancies in toxicity that is reported. The purity of five commercially available SWNTs (AP-SWNT and P2-SWNT, from Carbon Solutions Inc, HMS-SWNT from Helix Materials, and NA-SWNT from Nanostructured and Amorphous Materials Inc. and CT-SWNT from ChepTubes Inc.) were analyzed by raman and electron dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS) spectroscopy. Secondly, the dispersion states of SWNTs in various pharmaceutical solvents were evaluated by ultraviolet (UV) spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), dynamic light scattering (DLS), zeta potential, and Raman spectroscopy to identify potential agents for exfoliation of SWNTs in selected pharmaceutical solution. SWNTs were dispersed in various solvents (water, propylene glycol [PG], dimethylsulfoxide [DMSO], and ethanol) as well as in 0.1% w/v aqueous solutions of anionic, cationic and neutral surfactants at a SWNT concentration of 0.1 mg/mL. SWNT suspensions described as dispersed yielded an evenly coloured suspension with no visible precipitate. The most stable dispersions were obtained with the gemini surfactants, which were confirmed by SEM observation of exfoliated SWNTs. Zeta (î) potential measurements of the fully dispersed SWNTs showed typical values of greater than +30 mV, while non-dispersed samples were less than +20 mV. SEM images of the dispersed solution showed the presence of exfoliated SWNTs compared to the aggregated SWNT clusters observed in non-dispersed systems. Raman spectra of dispersed SWNTs showed G-band peak shifts (to higher wavelengths), confirming the presence of exfoliated SWNTs. Even though the purity of SWNT did not correlate with amount of SWNT in dispersion, exfoliation of bundled SWNTs was accompanied by an increase in UV absorbance of the dispersion, with maximum exfoliation determined by a relatively stable UV absorbance. As pharmaceutical excipients, we have demonstrated that gemini surfactants are suitable dispersing agents for SWNTs, and shown that the dispersion of SWNT for gemini surfactants (12-3-12) is achieved below the critical micelle concentration. The dispersion of SWNT bundles into individual strands is the first crucial step towards their use in biological systems as drug carriers.



excipients, dispersion, purity of single walled carbon nanotubes, Single walled carbon nanotubes



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


College of Pharmacy and Nutrition


College of Pharmacy and Nutrition


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