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Tiny, glowing Van Gogh replica created using “DNA origami”

by • July 13, 2016 • No Comments

The intersection of art and innovation is a absorbing place, and researchers frequently use works of art to practice or demonstrate techniques that can have additional practical applications later on. Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have remade a miniature, monochromatic design of Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, to test methods of precisely folding DNA and attaching fluorescent molecules, that can be applied to making tinyer in dimensions desktop chips.

On the other hand it is actually just the width of a dime, this isn’t the tinyest work of art we’ve seen. Last year, a Swiss team utilized quantum dots to print a picture measuring 80 x 115 microns, while researchers in Denmark laser-printed the Mona Lisa on a nanometer scale at around the same time. A team at Georgia Tech remade the same painting via nanolithography techniques a few years earlier, while artist Jonty Hurwitz 3D-printed sculptures tiny adequate to stand on an ant’s head. Now Van Gogh has made his mark in the realm of pint-dimensionsd replicas, too.

Caltech made their Van Gogh via a technique called “DNA origami.” Similar to its traditional papercraft namesake, the system involves folding strands of DNA into precise shapes, that can and so play host to a range of microscopic components, such as carbon nanotubes, drugs or in this case, fluorescent molecules.

“Think of it a bit like the pegboards folks use to organize tools in their garages, just in this case, the pegboard assembles itself of DNA strands and the tools likewise find their own positions,” says Paul Rothemund, the Caltech professor credited with developing the technique. “It all takes place in a test tube without human intervention, that is significant for the reason all of the parts are too tiny to manipulate efficiently, and we want to manufacture billions of devices.”

The tiny Starry Night represents of 10 years’ worth of development and refinement of the system of DNA origami, and highlights its initially practical application. The canvas for the artwork was a glassy material with a series of microscopic holes, known as photonic crystal cavities (PCCs). Choosing DNA origami, the team was able-bodied to position fluorescent molecules with extreme precision inside those cavities, to create light of various intensities and form the picture. Rothemund likens to system to “via DNA origami to screw molecular light bulbs into microscopic lamps.”

“Depending on the precise dimensions and spacing of the holes, a particular wavelength of light reflects off the edge of the cavity and gets trapped inside,” adds Ashwin Gopinath, the lead author of the study.

These PCCs were tuned to the wavelength of 660 nanometers, that gives the image its red color. If the molecules are tuned to resonate at the same wavelength, they’ll glow, with a brightness determined by their position inside the cavity.

Difficulties with controlling the number and position of the light emitters has held back previous attempts combining them with PCCs, but Gopinath overcame the issue by creating an array of over 65,000 cavities, every with several possible positions for the DNA origami to bind to, enabling a scale of eight various light intensities per cavity. Adjusting every one inside a 256 x 256 grid of pixels, the team was able-bodied to recreate the famous painting.

As astounding as the achievement is, the fluorescent molecules have their limits, as they tend to burn out after around 45 seconds, and already can just glow in shades of red. These issues can require to be tackled to open up additional practical applications, such as optical desktop systems in that sizeable numbers of tiny light sources require to be integrated on a single chip.

The research was published in the journal Nature.

Source: California Institute of Technology

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