Scientists fine-tune organic thin films with an eye toward biomedical devices
Using DNA from salmon, researchers in South Korea hope to make better biomedical and other photonic devices based on organic thin films. Often used in cancer treatments and health monitoring, thin films have all the capabilities of silicon-based devices with the possible added advantage of being more compatible with living tissue.
A thin film is just what it sounds like, a layer of material only nanometers or micrometers thick that can be used to channel light. If the film is a dielectric—that is, an insulator such as glass—it can be used without worrying that it might conduct electricity.
“DNA is the most abundant organic material, and it is a transparent dielectric, comparable to silica,” said Kyunghwan “Ken” Oh, of the Photonic Device Physics Laboratory at Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea. In the journal Optical Materials Express, from The Optical Society (OSA), Oh and his colleagues lay out their method for fabricating the thin films in a way that gives them fine control over the material’s optical and thermal properties.
As the basis for the silica glass that makes up optical fibers, silicon has long been a dominant material in inorganic photonic devices because it’s readily available and easy to work with from the materials perspective. Oh argues that DNA can play the same role in organic photonic devices because it can be found throughout the living world. It could, for instance, be used to make waveguides similar to silica fibers to carry light within the body. Organic devices should also be easy to manufacture, more flexible than silicon and environmentally friendly.
‘A sharper arrow’
One key property of materials used in photonic devices is the refractive index, which determines how light is directed. An optical fiber requires a core with one index, wrapped in a cladding with a different enough index so that when light hits the interface between core and cladding, it is forced back into the core instead of leaking away. Makers of optical fiber not only need material with two different refractive indexes, they need to control the magnitude of that difference to get the desired effects.
In fine-tuning a method for using DNA to create thin films that could be used in photonic devices, Oh’s team was able to get a range of refractive indexes four times greater than that available in silicon. With a greater index difference between core and cladding, they can make much thinner optical fibers, as low as 3 microns in diameter, compared to a minimum of 10 in silicon. This allows for a smaller spot size for the light coming out of the fiber, which could be useful in applications that must carefully target light. “If you have a small target, you should have a sharper arrow,” said Oh.
Potential applications could include photodynamic therapy, where a cancer patient is given a drug or other substance that binds to cells in a tumor and light activates the drug and destroys the cancer cells, leaving healthy tissue untouched. The films may also be useful in optogenetics, in which light is used to control the activity of specific brain cells, or to make sensors to measure the pressure or oxygen content of blood pressure that could be worn for a long time without causing irritation because they are organic.
Grappling with inconsistent results
To make a thin film, which can be used as the basis for photonic devices, researchers have to dissolve DNA in water, and then dissolve that mixture into an organic solvent. The liquid is placed on a surface, which spins so the material spreads evenly. The solvent then evaporates to leave the film behind. Because DNA doesn’t readily dissolve, researchers first mix it with a solution of water and cetyltrimethylammonium (CTMA), a soap-like surfactant. The mixture produces a precipitate, which can then be dissolved into the solvent and spin-coated.
While researchers have used this procedure for several years, their results have been inconsistent. “We noticed that, depending on the papers, the refractive index and material properties varied in a wide range, so we were very curious about it,” said Oh. “And we found out the fabrication process was a little bit different from research group to research group.”
Controlling the process
Three graduate students in Oh’s lab—Woohyun Jung, Hwiseok Jun and Seongjin Hong—found that by controlling the amount of water and CTMA in their mixture, they could fine-tune the refractive index of the thin film. Testing revealed different mixtures, depending on whether they added droplets of water and DNA into the CTMA solution, or water and CTMA into the DNA bath. Oh describes the strand of DNA as a rope, with sites along it to which the CTMA can bind. “If you drop this rope into a CTMA bath, there are tons of CTMA available, so you can soak the rope with the CTMA,” said Oh. On the other hand, if you drop CTMA onto a large batch of DNA, the “rope” may not get completely wet; that is, there are areas of DNA without CTMA attached.
The more water the mixture contained, the less CTMA there was, and vice versa. By carefully controlling the amount of both, the team could achieve the desired index of refraction. The same approach provided control over the thermal properties of the film, allowing the researchers to control how much the refractive index changed when the film was heated or cooled. That could allow the film to be used as a temperature sensor, as changes in the light passing through it would be linked to changes in temperature.
Oh’s lab is also exploring other methods to control the optical properties of DNA. His hope is to develop a set of fundamental principles and processes that will allow manufacturers to build a wide range of optical devices, including a new generation of wearable sensors.
Learn more: DNA: The next hot material in photonics?
The Latest on: Organic thin films
- More Than 50% of Film Capacitors Manufactured Using BOPP Metallized Films: Fact.MR Analysison June 21, 2022 at 11:00 am
Effective Barrier Quality & Longer Shelf Life and High Consumption in Food & Electronic Industry Are Expected To Drive Metallized Film SalesUnited States, Rockville MD, June 21, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) ...
- Scientists Have Created a Method To Prevent Deadly Infections Without Antibioticson June 20, 2022 at 9:43 am
UCLA researchers have created a new surface treatment that prevents bacteria from sticking to medical devices such as catheters and stents. A hospital or medical clinic may seem like the last place ...
- Samsung D to supply 80 million OLED panels for iPhone 14… Duksan, Solus, SDI participated in 'M12'on June 20, 2022 at 12:51 am
Samsung Display will supply Apple with organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays for their new iPhone 14. It is estimated that 80 million OLEDs will be used for iPhone 14. Samsung Display collabora ...
- IDTechEx Discuss Unlocking the Power of Perovskite Photovoltaicson June 16, 2022 at 12:57 pm
Thin film perovskite PV is naturally well-suited ... There is already very early-stage commercialization of self-powered electronics using organic PV. This market is still very small and there ...
- IDTechEx Discuss Unlocking the Power of Perovskite Photovoltaicson June 16, 2022 at 12:20 pm
Perovskite photovoltaics (PV) is a very young field, only emerging in 2009. Since then, research into the field has catapulted leading to the fastest acceleration in record efficiency of any PV ...
- Thin Film Transistor (TFT) Market Is Set to Fly High in Years to Come with Top Countries Data | 108 Report Pageson June 12, 2022 at 9:09 pm
Market"" Insights 2022 By Types ( Organic, Inorganic), Applications ( Televisions, Laptops, Smartphones and Tablets, Wearable Devices, Others), Regions and Forecast to 2028. The global Thin Film ...
- Diamond Light Source Scientists win two prestigious RSC Horizon prizeson June 9, 2022 at 3:19 am
Science X is a network of high quality websites with most complete and comprehensive daily coverage of the full sweep of science, technology, and medicine news ...
- Team disproves hypotheses about perovskite solar cells, enabling better approaches for targeted optimizationon June 8, 2022 at 5:00 pm
Research on inorganic and hybrid organic lead halide perovskites has ... with little energy expenditure from solutions to yield thin films. But even after years of intensive research, the ...
- Winner: 2022 Dalton Division Horizon Prizeon June 8, 2022 at 10:49 am
LECs have a variety of applications and have the potential to undercut organic LEDs by an order of magnitude in ... industry (inorganic chemistry and materials science) as well as thin-film lighting ...
via Google News and Bing News