At Purdue University engineers have developed a new type of optical nanotweezers that can be used to grab onto and inspect viruses, DNA strings, and other important biomolecules.
The innovative lab-on-a-chip device relies on a “nanostructured plasmonic metafilm” created out of a very thin gold sheet with nano-scale holes drilled into it. When light is directed toward different areas of the film, heat is generated near where the light lands. The heating effect generates small twisters within the liquid surrounding the film. Combined with an electric field, the plasmonic metafilm leads to molecules of interest to stick to its surface. From there they can be easily collected and analyzed further.
“To our knowledge, our plasmonic nanotweezers are more robust in trapping and detecting molecules than previous comparable lab-on-a-chip systems,” in a published statement said Alexander Kildishev, a leader of the research and associate professor at Purdue’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “Our system also provides better sensitivity and consumes less laser power. We have created an advanced self-contained lab-on-a-chip platform that allows us to trap and detect dangerous particles such as drug and water contaminants and remove them from liquids. Our system is very flexible to control and provides a broad range of functionality. We use multifunctional, inexpensive light sources to outperform more expensive alternatives.”