Swedish team creates 'impossible' record-breaking drug delivery material

Upsalite, the most absorbent material on earth, shows potential for drug delivery.--Courtesy of Uppsala University

After years of searching, a record-breaking material with drug-delivering capabilities thought to be "impossible" has been synthesized by Swedish researchers.

Researchers at Uppsala University created a magnesium carbonate material called Upsalite, a near-mythical substance with world-record-breaking surface area and water-absorption abilities. Upsalite, according to the university, has potential in the drug formulation industry, as well as several other applications in electronics and environmental cleanup, as published in the journal PLoS ONE.

The new material has the highest surface area measured of any alkali earth metal carbonate at 800 square meters per gram, a property that allows it to absorb liquids rapidly, making it the most absorbent material on earth. This absorbency, controlled by nanosized pores, presents an important application for drug delivery, as researchers look to contain drugs within stable, controlled vehicles. Absorbent materials in the past have aided with insulin delivery, chemotherapy and autoimmune drugs.

And what's more, the Uppsala team made the discovery purely by accident--back in 2011, they left an experiment in the reaction chamber by mistake one weekend and discovered Monday morning that a rigid gel had formed, giving them Upsalite.

"In contrast to what has been claimed for more than 100 years in the scientific literature, we have found that amorphous magnesium carbonate can be made in a very simple, low-temperature process," researcher Johan Gómez de la Torre said in a statement.

"After having gone through a number of state-of-the-art materials characterization techniques it became clear that we had indeed synthesized the material that previously had been claimed impossible to make," team member Maria Strømme added. "This pore structure gives the material a totally unique way of interacting with the environment leading to a number of properties important for application of the material."

- here's the Uppsala report
- and the research article