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SPIE Professional January 2013

DNA as nanophotonic scaffolds

By Akhlesh Lakhtakia

photo of Lakhtakia, Akhlesh

DNA continues to fascinate scientists and engineers alike. Not only is it the stuff of life on Earth, but it also is gathering interest as a nanophotonic material because the DNA helix can be manipulated in different ways.

DNA chains can be assembled into wires, thin films, and origami structures or organized into photonic crystals and liquid crystals. It can serve as a molecular ruler and so on.

The sources of deoxyribonucleic acid as a material are plentiful; wastes from the commercial fishing industry provide much of the material.

SPIE members Katarzyna Matczyszyn and Joanna Olesiak-Banska of Wroclaw University of Technology (Poland) point out in an open-access review paper published in the Journal of Nanophotonics that DNA can serve as a scaffold for bottom-up assembly of nanoscale devices. Since DNA scaffolds have short-range order, certain reactions are facilitated while others are impeded.

In “DNA as scaffolding for nanophotonics structures,” the researchers note that since they are optical materials, DNA scaffolds can also regulate photochemistry. As it is soluble in many organic solvents, DNA itself can be modified and incorporated in optoelectronic and nanophotonic devices, the researchers report.


 DNA’s specific organization allows for the construction of photonic molecular systems, such as what is schematically shown above. Light-harvesting systems, for instance, can be arranged in a specific order, where the sequence of energy- or charge-transfer processes leads to optimum performance of channeling to create a new generation of photonic wires or conducting plasmonic devices. Blue, green, and red balls and orange bars represent the photonic components that can serve as light-harvesting and energy-transfer materials. Other components can act as molecular sensing units by energy or electron accepting, where the light is converted to chemical potential, represented by the transformation of the substrate-triangles to the higher-energy product-stars.

The combination of molecular biology and supramolecular chemistry with optoelectronics is an emerging research area.

The Journal of Nanophotonics is an electronic journal focusing on the fabrication and application of nanostructures that facilitate the generation, propagation, manipulation, and detection of light from the infrared to the ultraviolet regimes.

Source: Journal of Nanophotonics 6, 064505 (2012); doi:10.1117/1.JNP.6.064505 (ow.ly/fSTbr)

–Akhlesh Lakhtakia is editor-in-chief of the SPIE Journal of Nanophotonics.


DOI: 10.1117/2.4201301.09

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January 2013

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