Harvesting light, nature’s way

Nature has inspired inventions time and again. The burs of burdock was at the heart of the invention of the zipperless zipper (you might know it better by the brand name Velcro). Sound navigation and ranging, or sonar, is a technique where sound propagation is used to navigate, communicate or even detect objects underwater. Human beings got the idea for sonar from dolphins, who use the technique extensively. We can go on listing such examples…

Hybrid materials

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in collaboration with Washington University have now created a material that is inspired by nature. This material, which is capable of capturing light energy, has been found to be highly effective as an artificial light-harvesting system. Such a material could thus have potential applications in bioimaging and photovoltaics.

As nature provides wonderful examples of hierarchically structured hybrid materials, scientists created a material that replicates the structural and functional complexity that is found in naturally occurring hybrid materials. The resulting robust nanocrystals combine the programmability of a protein-like synthetic molecule with the complexity of a silicate-based nanocluster.

Like pigments in plants

With programmability possibilities literally endless, scientists created a system that could harness light energy just like pigments in plants do. Donor molecules absorb light at particular wavelengths and transfer it to acceptor molecules, which then emit light at different wavelengths. The system created showed a very high energy transfer efficiency.

Though this research is still in its early stages, scientists have already showcased one use of this system by inserting the nanocrystals into live human cells as a biocompatible probe. The researchers were able to demonstrate its usefulness in live cell imaging and believe that it is only one of many possible applications in the future.

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 11:35:06 PM |

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