London, Nov 13 : It will now be possible to convert DNA strands into tiny fibre optic cables that guide light along their length, thanks to a new technology developed by scientists at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Bo Albinsson and his colleagues have devised a way to make small-scale light-carrying "wires" that pipe photons to where they are needed, reports New Scientist.
The wires are made up from a mixture of DNA and molecules called chromophores that can absorb and pass on light.
The resulting wires are quite similar to natural photonic wires found inside organisms like algae, where they are used to transport photons to parts of a cell where their energy can be tapped.
In these wires, chromophores are lined up in chains to channel photons.
Such wires find implications in optical computers, which use light rather then electricity to perform calculations, or in artificial photosynthesis systems that may replace today's solar panels. For their study, the researchers used a single type of chromophore called YO as their energy mediator.
YO has a strong affinity for DNA molecules and readily wedges itself between the "rungs" of bases that make up a DNA strand.
What we get in the end is strands of DNA with YO chromophores along their length, transforming the strands into photonic wires just a few nanometres in diameter and 20 nanometres long.
Albinsson said that the ready-mix approach by the scientists comes up with comparable results.
He said that as the wires assemble themselves, they have an upper hand over wires made by the previous chemical method because of their ability to self-repair.
Thus, in case a chromophore gets damaged and falls free of the DNA strand, another will readily take its place.
Albinsson said that it should be possible to transfer information along the strands encoded in pulses of light.
Philip Tinnefeld at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Germany said that the self-assembling nature of the wire makes it difficult to know where the chromophores lie along the DNA strand.
They are unlikely to be spread out evenly and the variation between strands could be large.