Surprise: Biological microstructures light up after heating

Aug 01, 2014
Figure 1. After heating the tubular microstructures (a and c) with a laser at the location of the red circle, energy propagates in the direction of the arrow. Post-heating luminescence occurs (b and d) at both ends of the microstructure (circled red and blue). In picture b, the blue rectangle zooms in on the right hand end of the microstructure. Credit: Sergey Semin

Physicists from Radboud University investigated tubular biological microstructures that showed unexpected luminescence after heating. Their findings were published in Small on July 29. Optical properties of bioinspired peptides, like the ones investigated, could be useful for applications in optical fibers, biolasers and future quantum computers.

The luminous peptide microstructures self-assemble in a water environment. After heating them with a laser, they showed luminescence in the green range of the optical spectrum (Figure 1).

Surprising luminescence

Physicist Sergey Semin from Radboud University explains: 'The optical activity in the green range was a surprise for us. According to our theories, the molecular of our molecules forbids them to be luminescent in that spectral range. We expect that interactions between the peptide and the water molecules might be the cause for our unexpected finding. They form a kind of 'super cell' together, which we hypothesize emits light after heating.'

Biological structures with physical properties

'In general, it's very interesting that like the ones we studied show like luminescence', says Semin. Understanding the underlying mechanisms can give new insight in the of peptides and short organic molecules. That could lead to applications like optical fibers for data transfer, biolasers or applications in future quantum computers.

Recognizing brain plaques

Another interesting application might be in the biomedical field, since the microstructures are the core recognition motif of β-amyloid fibrils that form plaques in the human brain and lead to Alzheimer's and some other brain diseases. The recognition structures can be excited and made visible by heating them, but clinical applications are still far away. Semin: 'The more we know about such structures, the more we can do for diagnosis and treatment.'

Semin works at the Spectroscopy of solids and interfaces department, in the research group of prof. Theo Rasing.

Explore further: Remote quantum applications, teleportation enabled by calling long distance between superconducting qubits

More information: Semin, S., van Etteger, A., Cattaneo, L., Amdursky, N., Kulyuk, L., Lavrov, S., Sigov, A., Mishina, E., Rosenman, G. and Rasing, Th. (2014), "Strong Thermo-Induced Single And Two-Photon Green Luminescence In Self-Organized Peptide Microtubes." Small. DOI: 10.1002/smll.201401602

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hollow optical fibers for UV light

Jul 02, 2014

(Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)) Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Erlangen/Germany and of the QUEST Institute, based at the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, ...

Green photon beams more agile than optical tweezers

Sep 18, 2013

Romanian scientists have discovered a novel approach for the optical manipulation of macromolecules and biological cells. Their findings, published in the European Physical Journal B, stem from challenging the idea that v ...

Recommended for you

Protons fuel graphene prospects

3 hours ago

Graphene, impermeable to all gases and liquids, can easily allow protons to pass through it, University of Manchester researchers have found.

Cooling with the coldest matter in the world

Nov 24, 2014

Physicists at the University of Basel have developed a new cooling technique for mechanical quantum systems. Using an ultracold atomic gas, the vibrations of a membrane were cooled down to less than 1 degree ...

Magnetic fields and lasers elicit graphene secret

Nov 24, 2014

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have studied the dynamics of electrons from the "wonder material" graphene in a magnetic field for the first time. This led to the discovery of ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.