New Laser Technique Makes Molecules Flower in 3D
This 3D flower is only 280 nanometers wide, or about 1/1000th the width of a human hair.
CREDIT: Vienna University of Technology
A new technique uses a laser to build tiny objects, molecule by molecule. In the future, scientists could use the process to build capillaries or other delicate biological tissues, according to the Vienna University of Technology in Austria.
Scientists at the Austrian university created the technique, called 3D photografting. They started with a block of gel that's infused with light-sensitive molecules. When they aimed a laser beam at the block, the beam immobilized one of the molecules in place inside its gel environment.
"We start from a three-dimensional scaffold and then attach the desired molecules at exactly the right position," Aleksandr Ovsianikov, a Vienna University of Technology materials scientist who led the research, said in a statement.
To demonstrate the idea, the Ovsianikov and his colleagues used the method to build a 3D green fluorescent flower inside a block of gel made of polyethylene glycol, a chemical that's common in lubricants and medicines. The flower was just 180 nanometers wide, which is about 1/1000th the width of a human hair.
Previously, researchers had used focused beams of light to create two-dimensional drawings. This is one of the first demonstrations of photografting in three dimensions, according to a paper Ovsianikov's team published in the Aug. 21 edition of the journal Advanced Functional Materials.
In the future, Osianikov's 3D photografting could work for building up capillaries and other bodily tissues, cell by cell, inside a gel environment. The new technique might also build precise microchips for research.