Production of sulfur-free nanoparticles by yeast


The technology is a simple method of producing spherical sulphur-free nanoparticles by growing yeast in a growth medium containing a source of an element (metal, non-metal, semi-metal or mixtures) in a bio-reducible oxidation state and precipitating nanoparticles containing the element in a lower oxidation state. The production efficiency of nanoparticles is very high, permitting relatively easy scale-up of the process with consistently sized spherical particles. The particles are intended for applications requiring nanomaterials, for example quantum dots and other electronic devices and the method represents an opportunity to produce such particles more economically, and in a more environmentally friendly manner.

Technology transfer

This technology is available for licensing, or for further development through a collaborative research agreement with NRC. The business opportunity may be referred to by its NRC ID: 12012.

Market applications

This technology is available for licensing by companies which have commercial fermentation production facilities looking to diversify their products and services, such as supplying selenium (Se) for the glass and animal feed industries. Applications for the resulting nanoparticles may be in the feed, solar cell, glass, printable electronics and medical fields.

How it works

There is an ever-growing interest in the synthesis of nanomaterials due to their physical, chemical and photoelectrochemical properties. The synthesis of nanomaterials over a range of chemical composition and high monodispersity is still challenging in material science. Many of the technologies available for the production of nanomaterials are chemically and often energetically intensive. Biological production of these nanomaterials could represent a green alternative to the synthetic chemcial and physical protocols used nowadays.

The method developed is premised on the fact that many biological systems from plants to uni-cellular organism can accumulate large quantities of metallic elements. This method of producing sulfur-free nanoparticles involves growing yeast in a growth medium containing a source of an element in a bio-reducible oxidation state (e.g. Se(VI), and, precipitating nanoparticles containing the element in a lower oxidation state (e.g. Se(O)) than the oxidation state of the element in the source. The method advantageously can provide nanoparticles at high, consistent production efficiencies. The sulfur content of particles is typically less than 0.1wt %.


  • Inexpensive biological system (baker’s yeast)
  • Simple and environmentally friendly process
  • Consistently sized nanospheres
  • Ability to control the size of nanospheres



To inquire about this technology, please contact:

Martin Rutter, Portfolio Business Advisor
Telephone: 613-990-6439

Express Licensing

NRC makes research & development licenses for this technology available under its Express Licensing program. To purchase such a license, please complete the Express Licensing order form.