Scientists have achieved the rare and impossible. They have used DNA techniques to make a microscopic replica of Van Gogh's Starry Night painting.
Researchers at Caltech employed folded DNA to arrange glowing molecules within microscopic light resonators. This resulted in the world’s smallest Van Gogh painting titled “The Starry Night”.
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The methods utilized for the small-scale facsimile was published in the advance online edition of the journal Nature on July 11. The single color image which has the width of a dime is proof of the fact that DNA origami could be used to create chip-like contraptions. These are more like computer circuits on a very small scale.
DNA origami was developed as a process about a decade ago. Caltech’s Paul Rothemund made it a reality with some effort. This technique allows scientists to fold DNA to resemble any shape they preferred.
The folded DNA can than be used as a scaffolding on which anything from fluorescent stuff to medicinal agents and carbon nanotubes could be affixed. The scheme resembles the pegboards used to hang tools in a garage.
All this occurs in the context of a test tube. There is little if any human meddling in the process. This procedure has practical applications such as in drug delivery and nanotechnology.
However, this is not enough. The small-scale components have to be wired together into ever larger circuits. The “spray and pray” method was used previously.
It consisted of making electrodes and then scattering devices haphazardly on the surface hoping that they would find their slots. In 2009, electron beam lithography was used to scratch sticky binding sites in DNA origami.
Since the last seven odd years or so, this technique has evolved to the point where it has become very fine-tuned in its inner machinations.
It is almost as if DNA origami was employed to screw molecular lightbulbs into microscopic lamp sockets. These lamps are called photonic crystal cavities (PCCs).
Wavelengths of light get fixated in these devices. Fluorescent molecules glow once they are inside these lamps. Shifting the DNA origami around from here to there results in a checkerboard which could be manipulated by the scientists.
By using highly precise methods of manipulative engineering, the researchers at Caltech managed to make an almost-exact version of “The Starry Night” by Van Gogh.
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Though just a copy at the microlevel, this is in itself an act of genius which ought to be lauded for breaking new ground in the annals of science.