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October 4, 2016

DNA origami lights up a microscopic glowing Van Gogh

A microscopic reproduction--the width of a dime across--of Van Gogh's "The Starry Night" recreated on a silicon nitride chip. Each of the 65,536 pixels is a bacterium-sized light source into which a different number of red fluorescent molecules has been loaded.

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Researchers at Caltech used folded DNA to precisely place glowing molecules within microscopic light resonators to create one of the world's smallest reproductions of Vincent van Gogh's "The Starry Night."

Light sources like these might be used to power optical computers on a chip but it's the technology underlying their fabrication that is most exciting. A combination of self-folding DNA origami and the sort of printing process used to make computer chips is used to determine the number and exact position of glowing molecules. Putting molecules exactly where we want them on computer chips has been hard, and this new technology makes it possible to combine molecular devices with computer chips, which may enable applications from quantum computers to sensitive diagnostics.

The research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (grants CCF 08-32824 and CCF 13-17694).

To learn more about this research, see the Caltech news story DNA Origami Lights Up a Microscopic Glowing Van Gogh. (Date image taken: May 2015; date originally posted to NSF Multimedia Gallery: Oct. 4, 2016)

Credit: Ashwin Gopinath, Caltech

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