Engineered surface covered with hundreds of tiny sensors.
Their system consists of an engineered surface covered with hundreds of tiny sensors called metapixels, which can generate a distinct bar code for every molecule that the surface comes into contact with. These bar codes can be massively analyzed and classified using advanced pattern recognition and sorting technology such as artificial neural networks. This research which sits at the crossroads of physics, nanotechnology and big data has been published in Science.
The pioneering system developed by the EPFL scientists is both highly sensitive and capable of being miniaturized; it uses nanostructures that can trap light on the nanoscale and thereby provide very high detection levels for samples on the surface. “The molecules we want to detect are nanometric in scale, so bridging this size gap is an essential step,” says Hatice Altug, head of EPFL’s BioNanoPhotonic Systems Laboratory and a coauthor of the study.
The system’s nanostructures are grouped into what are called metapixels so that each one resonates at a different frequency. When a molecule comes into contact with the surface, the way the molecule absorbs light changes the behavior of all the metapixels it touches.
“Importantly, the metapixels are arranged in such a way that different vibrational frequencies are mapped to different areas on the surface,” says Andreas Tittl, lead author of the study.
This creates a pixelated map of light absorption that can be translated into a molecular bar code all without using a spectrometer.
“Thanks to our sensors’ unique optical properties, we can generate bar codes even with broadband light sources and detectors,” says Aleksandrs Leitis, a coauthor of the study.
There are a number of potential applications for this new system. “For instance, it could be used to make portable medical testing devices that generate bar codes for each of the biomarkers found in a blood sample,” says Dragomir Neshev, another coauthor of the study.
Artificial intelligence could be used in conjunction with this new technology to create and process a whole library of molecular bar codes for compounds ranging from protein and DNA to pesticides and polymers. That would give researchers a new tool for quickly and accurately spotting miniscule amounts of compounds present in complex samples.
EFFL News. Posted: June 07, 2018.
Nota do Scientific Editor: O trabalho que deu origem a esta notícia de título: "Imaging-based molecular barcoding with pixelated dielectric metasurfaces,” de autoria de Andreas Tittl, Aleksandrs Leitis, Mingkai Liu, Filiz Yesilkoy, Duk-Yong Choi, Dragomir N. Neshev, Yuri S. Kivshar, and Hatice Altug, foi publicado no periódico Science, Vol. 360, Issue 6393, pp. 1105-1109, DOI: 10.1126/science.aas9768.