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A team which includes researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems uses gold nanorods which are connected to each other in pairs by a hinge made out of DNA strands as a nano-optical switch. The gold rods can be seen under a transmission electron microscope as dark bars, the DNA appears as the curly structure in between. For the switching operation, the gold rods are arranged as a cross, during the investigation in the electron microscope they attach themselves to the support material in parallel. © Nature Materials 2014/MPI for Intelligent Systems

DNA used as a lightswitch

A nanostructure made from two tiny gold rods reversibly changes its optical properties when specific DNA molecules are added

Electronics now has a competitor. Information is increasingly being transmitted and processed by means of light rather than electrons. And just as has happened to electronic components, their photonic counterparts are to shrink to nanoformat. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität in Munich, and Ohio University in Athens, USA, have developed a switch for nano-optics. Two gold nanorods are the key players here. If the angle between them changes, certain optical properties of the nano-lightswitch also change. The researchers control the angle itself by means of molecules which in living nature are the carriers of genetic information: DNA.


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Laura Na Liu
Research Group Leader