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Top Story

'Tornado' lab-on-a-chip with nanotweezers detects dangerous viruses, biological

Researchers have developed a new class of optical nanotweezers that can trap and detect biomolecules, viruses and DNA more rapidly. The technology can also use light to promptly detect cancer and improve the production of medications, an important step forward since nearly half of Americans have used at least one prescription drug within the past month. The researchers developed a nanostructured plasmonic metafilm by perforating nanoscale holes in a gold film. Then, the metafilm acts as tweezers to capture and trap tiny particles by focusing light onto specific spots on the film and by heating up those spots and creating local thermal gradients in the ambient liquid. This produces a small tornado-like effect. The plasmonic metafilms use a combination of thermal and electric fields to create hydrodynamic flows that result in the rapid transport of suspended particles, bringing them to the surface of the metal film for easy trapping and detection. Another advantage of the new system is the increased ability to sort these tiny particles and then collectively detect sorted patterns such as drug contaminants or water impurities. The technology has potential applications for pharmaceuticals, biohazard detection and water quality tests.

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