DNA strands become fibre optic cables

By | November 18, 2008

dn16029-1_300Thanks to a new technique, DNA strands can be easily converted into tiny fibre optic cables that guide light along their length. Optical fibres made this way could be important in optical computers, which use light rather than electricity to perform calculations, or in artificial photosynthesis systems that may replace today’s solar panels.

Both kinds of device need small-scale light-carrying “wires” that pipe photons to where they are needed. Now Bo Albinsson and his colleagues at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, have worked out how to make them. The wires build themselves from a mixture of DNA and molecules called chromophores that can absorb and pass on light.

The result is similar to natural photonic wires found inside organisms like algae, where they are used to transport photons to parts of a cell where their energy can be tapped. In these wires, chromophores are lined up in chains to channel photons. … Because his wires assemble themselves, he says they are better than wires made by the previous chemical method as they can self-repair: if a chromophore is damaged and falls free of the DNA strand, another will readily take its place. It should be possible to transfer information along the strands encoded in pulses of light, he told New Scientist. – ns

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