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Light Harvesting Nanoantennas Made With Plant DNA and Artificial Molecules

Ted Sargent and Shana Kelley

A University of Toronto research team has reported the first time construction of what they call “artificial molecules.” These molecules¬† have been inspired by photosynthesis and use nanotechnology to harvest sunlight.

The nanoantennas made by the team led by Professors Shana Kelley and Ted Sargent are actually part of a newly-invented generalized strategy that binds certain classes of nanoparticles to one another.

“The amazing thing is that our antennas built themselves – we coated different classes of nanoparticles with selected sequences of DNA, combined the different families in one beaker, and nature took its course. The result is a beautiful new set of self-assembled materials with exciting properties,” said Prof. Sargent.

“Like the antennas in radios and mobile phones, our complexes captured dispersed energy and concentrated it to a desired location. Like the light harvesting antennas in the leaves of a tree, our complexes do so using wavelengths found in sunlight,” he added.

Prof. Kelley says that the newly-made class of light harvesting nanoantennas is actually an extension to the concept of quantum dots, which are artificial atoms.

It’s probably too early to discuss efficiency figures or production details, but the mere fact that plant-imitating circuitry keeps appearing in science everywhere, especially in solar cells, proves one more time that this is the path we should follow and that there’s more to learn from Nother Nature than we ever thought.

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