Reactions in Containers
Nanocontainer is a term used for structures with a size within the nanometer range (1-100 nm). The interest in their use stems from their empty inner cavities that can be used for a variety of applications. Among these, one of peculiar interest is the encapsulation of molecules in order to turn the structure into a reaction vessel.
Biological systems have always been an inspiration because of their complexity and diversity. Cell processes take place within constrained spaces and small volumes, and many are not yet fully understood. Advances in nanoscale fabrication have allowed us to mimic some of these spaces and features with other structures. The volumes that are present at this level (atto and zeptoliter) allow molecules to collide more often, as opposed to an “open space”; simulations based on Brownian diffusion have shown that collision frequency between molecules strongly depend on vesicle size.
The most widely studied containers are liposomes: self-assembling structures formed by a lipid bilayer, that have been used to encapsulate enzymes for a variety of applications. However, other biological systems have also been subject of study, such as block copolymer vesicles, proteins like ferritin, and viral capsids.