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Gold nanoparticle-based thermal history indicator for monitoring low-temperature storage


We describe a gold nanoparticle (AuNP)-based thermal history indicator (THI) for monitoring low-temperature storage. The THI was prepared from tetrachloroaurate using gelatin as a reducing reagent. Gelatin also acts as a stabilizer to control the growth of the AuNPs. The size and shape of the AuNPs were characterized by UV–vis spectrophotometry and transmission electron microscopy and are initially found to be spherical with an average particle size of ~19 nm. Initially, the color of the THIs is slightly pink, but after a 90-day storage in the freezer, as both the size and shape of the AuNPs change, the color of the THIs turns to red. After 90 days the absorbance peaks of THIs held at room temperature are red-shifted from 538 to 572 nm and possessed larger amplitude compared to those stored in the freezer. The color change is a function of both storage time and temperature. The observed increase in size is mainly due to storage temperature while the change in shape is mainly due to storage time. The THIs experiencing higher temperature treatments exhibit a more intense color change which is attributed to a localized surface plasmon resonance effect. Thus, the observed visual color changes can provide information regarding the thermal history the material has experienced. Accordingly, when used in conjunction with time-temperature sensitive products, the THI may serve as a proactive system for monitoring and controlling product quality and/or safety. For example, the THI is useful in safeguarding high-value biological products such as enzymes, antibodies, plasma, stem cells and other perishables that have to be stored at low temperatures.

Illustration of AuNPs size and shape evolution in thermal history indicators exposed to different storage times and temperatures. Generally, in our system, the size change is mainly due to storage temperature and the shape change due to storage time.

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Author Yi-Cheng Wang acknowledges funding from Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellowship. The authors acknowledge the use of facilities and instrumentation supported by the University of Wisconsin Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (DMR-1121288).

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Correspondence to Sundaram Gunasekaran.

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Wang, YC., Lu, L. & Gunasekaran, S. Gold nanoparticle-based thermal history indicator for monitoring low-temperature storage. Microchim Acta 182, 1305–1311 (2015).

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  • Gold nanoparticles
  • Localized surface plasmon resonance
  • Time-temperature indicator
  • Product quality and safety