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SCIENCE A new class of DNA nanoparticles could pave the way for advanced light bending optical cloaking devices

Published 23 Jan 2018 11:23AM

Words by AC Speed | Senior Editor

For years, scientists and science fiction fans alike, have been dreaming of possessing the technology to create the mystical cloaking device seen in the well known Star Trek franchise, enabling huge structures to disappear in the blink of an eye and appear completely transparent.

Currently, most technology tries to disguise the signature of an object by reducing heat traces or manipulating radar to give the impression the object is no longer visible, however, it is still visible to the naked eye. Some technologies simply use cameras to project a background image onto an object which is extremely inefficient

This new technology could lead to devices capable of removing any observable trace (optical) of an object of any size, rendering the mark invisible.

Northwestern University researchers have developed a first-of-its-kind technique for creating entirely new classes of optical materials and devices that could lead to light bending and cloaking devices.

“Architecture is everything when designing new materials, and we now have a new way to precisely control particle architectures over large areas.” Chad Mirkin, George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry.

The team used DNA as a key tool taking gold nanoparticles of various shapes and sizes and precisely arranged them in two and three dimensions to form optically active superlattices.

Structures with specific configurations could be programmed through choice of particle type and both DNA-pattern and sequence to exhibit almost any color across the visible spectrum.

“Chemists and physicists will be able to build an almost infinite number of new structures with all sorts of interesting properties. These structures cannot be made by any known technique”

The study was published online by the journal Science today (Jan. 18). Mirkin and Vinayak P. Dravid and Koray Aydin, both professors in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering, are co-corresponding authors.

The new technique combines top down lithography and programmable self-assembly driven by DNA, never before combined.

This technique can be used to build metamaterials, materials not naturally found in nature for a range of medical and scientific applications.

In addition to being unusual architectures, these materials are stimuli-responsive: the DNA strands that hold them together change in length when exposed to new environments, such as solutions of ethanol that vary in concentration

“Our novel metamaterial platform — enabled by precise and extreme control of gold nanoparticle shape, size and spacing — holds significant promise for next-generation optical metamaterials and metasurfaces,” Aydin said



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