Polymer-coated noble metal nanoparticles are currently of particular interest to investigators in the fields of nanobiomedicine and fundamental biomaterials. These materials not only exhibit imaging properties in response to stimuli but also efficiently deliver various drugs and therapeutic genes. Even though a large number of polymer-coated noble metal nanoparticles have been fabricated over the past decade, most of these materials still present some challenges emanating from their synthesis. The metal nanoparticles when encapsulated in a polymer and taken up by human cells might show a lower degree of toxicity; however, the degree of toxicity for some of the starting materials and precursors has raised serious concerns. Hence, there is a need to implement the principle of green chemistry in the synthesis of nanomaterials. The use of environmentally benign materials for the synthesis of metal nanoparticles provides numerous benefits ranging from biocompatibility, availability, cost-effectiveness, amenable scale-up to eco-friendliness. The biopolymer-based nanovehicles have been found to be more suitable in the field of nanotechnology owing to their high reproducibility, ease of manufacture, functional modification and safety (they are not carcinogenic). Unlike synthetic polymers where the raw material can be derived from petrochemicals or chemical industrial processes, biopolymers are produced from renewable resources such as plant and/or living organism. They are degradable by natural processes down to elemental entities that can be resorbed in the environment. Furthermore, they can also be modified to serve a particular purpose which explains the myriad of their potential applications. The macromolecular chain of these biopolymers possesses a large number of hydroxyl groups which can easily complex with metal ions. Additionally, these biopolymers also contain supramolecular structures that can lead to new functionalities of their composites with metal and semiconductor nanoparticles. In this chapter, a comprehensive discussion on different biopolymers, green synthesis of noble metal nanostructures, mechanisms, characterization and application in various fields is presented.
Part of the book: Recent Advances in Biopolymers