LVEM helps study functionalized single walled carbon nanotubes and nanographene oxide

Antibiotic Resistance

Bacterial infections, thanks to the invention of modern antibiotics, are no longer a major health concern today like they were even a hundred years ago.  However, bacteria are evolving resistance to our pharmaceutical tool kit with an alarming rate.  The Wellcome Trust predicts antibiotic resistance could lead to 10 million deaths globally by 2050,[1] and over the last decade funding agencies around the world have been ramping investment in this important problem.

A nanomaterial-based potential solution

Recently, Carver, et al., published a new potential solution, using carbon-based nanomaterials.[2]  Two approaches were investigated.  The first studied single walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs or CNTs), cut to shorter lengths by an acid processing step.  This step also functionalized with carboxyl groups, providing a chemical handle for subsequently adding on the drug payload tetracycline to these nanomedicines.  The second approach studied nanographene oxide (NGO), using similar carboxyl group functionalization chemistry to attach the tetracycline payload to the nanomaterial.

Characterizing CNTs “cut to length” 

One requirement when fabricating novel nanomaterials is robustly characterizing their morphology. Carver and colleagues chose the LVEM25 to extensively characterize the acid-cut CNTs, and the as received NGO.  Figure 1 below, adapted from ref [2], demonstrates the very nice contrast achievable with an LVEM25 when imaging carbon-based nanostructures.  The authors analyzed numerous structures to develop size distributions for CNT length, providing confidence in the resulting CNTs being cut to the desired length.

Figure 1.  The LVEM25 enabled collection of TEM images of as-received and cut carbon nanotubes used for studies developing novel approaches to preventing antimicrobial resistance. Adapted from [2].


Antimicrobial resistance is an important societal challenge.  Efforts we can take every day include taking steps to protect ourselves against infection, thereby reducing the need to use antibiotic treatments.  Significant research investment continues to seek new potential avenues and tools to fight resistant microorganisms.  While the LVEM25 may at first be a surprising tool in the fight against antimicrobial resistance, it becomes obvious when considering the power of LVEM in characterizing carbon-based nanomaterials being applied to developing new tools for the toolkit.



[1], accessed 12/20/20.

[2] Carver JA, Simpson AL, Rathi RP, Normil N, Lee AG, Force MD, Fiocca KA, Maley CE, DiJoseph KM, Goldstein AL, Attari AA. Functionalized Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes and Nanographene Oxide to Overcome Antibiotic Resistance in Tetracycline-Resistant Escherichia coli. ACS Applied Nano Materials. 2020 Apr 2;3(4):3910-21.


About the author:

Robert I. MacCuspie, Ph.D., has over twenty years of experience working at the interface of business and science, at national laboratories, academia and corporations, and is the founder of MacCuspie Innovations which helps companies responsibly commercialize new technologies.