Synthesis and Bioapplication of Emerging Nanomaterials of Hafnium

David Skrodzki, Matthew Molinaro, Richard Brown, Parikshit Moitra, Dipanjan Pan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


A significant amount of progress in nanotechnology has been made due to the development of engineered nanoparticles. The use of metallic nanoparticles for various biomedical applications has been extensively investigated. Biomedical research is highly focused on them because of their inert nature, nanoscale structure, and similar size to many biological molecules. The intrinsic characteristics of these particles, including electronic, optical, physicochemical, and surface plasmon resonance, that can be altered by altering their size, shape, environment, aspect ratio, ease of synthesis, and functionalization properties, have led to numerous biomedical applications. Targeted drug delivery, sensing, photothermal and photodynamic therapy, and imaging are some of these. The promising clinical results of NBTXR3, a high-Z radiosensitizing nanomaterial derived from hafnium, have demonstrated translational potential of this metal. This radiosensitization approach leverages the dependence of energy attenuation on atomic number to enhance energy-matter interactions conducive to radiation therapy. High-Z nanoparticle localization in tumor issue differentially increases the effect of ionizing radiation on cancer cells versus nearby healthy ones and mitigates adverse effects by reducing the overall radiation burden. This principle enables material multifunctionality as contrast agents in X-ray-based imaging. The physiochemical properties of hafnium (Z = 72) are particularly advantageous for these applications. A well-placed K-edge absorption energy and high mass attenuation coefficient compared to elements in human tissue across clinical energy ranges leads to significant attenuation. Chemical reactivity allows for variety in nanoparticle synthesis, composition, and functionalization. Nanoparticles such as hafnium oxide exhibit excellent biocompatibility due to physiochemical inertness prior to incidence with ionizing radiation. Additionally, the optical and electronic properties are applicable in biosensing, optical component coatings, and semiconductors. The wide interest has prompted extensive research in design and synthesis to facilitate property fine-tuning. This review summarizes synthetic methods for hafnium-based nanomaterials and applications in therapy, imaging, and biosensing with a mechanistic focus. A discussion and future perspective section highlights clinical progress and elaborates on current challenges. By focusing on factors impacting applicational effectiveness and examining limitations this review aims to support researchers and expedite clinical translation of future hafnium-based nanomedicine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1289-1324
Number of pages36
JournalACS nano
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 16 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science
  • General Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy

Cite this