New nanoscale tech could revolutionize microscopes and study of disease

University of Missouri researchers recently published a study outlining a new, relatively inexpensive imaging platform that enables single-molecule imaging

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COLUMBIA, Mo.—Research completed through a collaboration with University of Missouri (MU) engineers, biologists and chemists could transform how scientists study molecules and cells at nanoscale levels, according to MU officials.
Shubra Gangopadhyay, an electrical and computer engineer, and her team at MU recently published a study outlining a new, relatively inexpensive imaging platform that enables single-molecule imaging.
“Usually, scientists have to use very expensive microscopes to image at the sub-microscopic level,” said Gangopadhyay, the C.W. LaPierre Endowed Chair of electrical and computer engineering in the MU College of Engineering. “The techniques we’ve established help to produce enhanced imaging results with ordinary microscopes.”
The team’s custom platform uses a interaction between light and the surface of the metal grating to generate surface plasmon resonance (SPR), a rapidly developing imaging technique that enables super-resolution imaging down to 65 nanometers—a resolution normally reserved for electron microscopes. Using HD-DVD and Blu-Ray discs as starting templates, a repeating grating pattern is transferred onto the microscope slides where the specimen will be placed. Since these patterns are based on a widely used technology, the manufacturing process remains relatively inexpensive.
“In previous studies, we’ve used plasmonic gratings to detect cortisol and even tuberculosis,” Gangopadhyay said. “Additionally, the relatively low production cost for the platform also means it could be used to further detect a wide variety of diseases, particularly in developing countries. Eventually, we might even be able to use smartphones to detect disease in the field.”
Gangopadhyay’s work also highlights the collaborations that are possible at MU, the university says.
The study, “Plasmonic gratings with nano-protrusions made by glancing angle deposition (GLAD) for single-molecule super-resolution imaging” recently was published in Nanoscale, a journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

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