Roll up, roll up, for transparent flexible screens

Stock image credit-Frog Fotolia A study by Tel Aviv University has found a DNA-peptide structure that can be used to produce thin, transparent, and flexible screens.
The ultimate in portable computing is a device with a display that can be rolled up and carried or stored. A study by Tel Aviv University suggests that a DNA-peptide structure can be used to produce thin, transparent, and flexible screens.

The research suggests that a DNA-peptide structure can be used to produce thin, transparent, and flexible screens. The research, conducted by Prof. Ehud Gazit and doctoral student Or Berger of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology at TAU's Faculty of Life Sciences, in collaboration with Dr. Yuval Ebenstein and Prof. Fernando Patolsky of the School of Chemistry at TAU's Faculty of Exact Sciences, harnesses bionanotechnology to emit a full range of colours in one pliable pixel layer, as opposed to the several rigid layers that constitute today's screens.

"Our material is light, organic, and environmentally friendly," says Prof. Gazit. "A single layer emits the same range of light that requires several layers today." Using one layer minimises production costs dramatically, he continues, and will lead to lower prices for consumers.

The researchers tested different combinations of peptides: short protein fragments, embedded with DNA elements which facilitate the self-assembly of a unique molecular architecture.

"In this study, we focused on PNA - peptide nucleic acid, a synthetic hybrid molecule of peptides and DNA. We designed and synthesised different PNA sequences, and tried to build nano-metric architectures with them."

Using methods such as electron microscopy and X-ray crystallography, the researchers discovered that three of the molecules they synthesised could self-assemble, in a few minutes, into ordered structures. The structures resembled the natural double-helix form of DNA, but also exhibited peptide characteristics.

"Once we discovered the DNA-like organisation, we tested the ability of the structures to bind to DNA-specific fluorescent dyes," said Berger. "To our surprise, the control sample, with no added dye, emitted the same fluorescence as the variable. This proved that the organic structure is itself naturally fluorescent."

The structures were found to emit light in every colour, rather than fluorescent materials that shine only in one specific colour. Moreover, light emission was observed also in response to electric voltage - which make it suitable for opto-electronic devices like display screens.

The study is published in Nature Nanotechnology.



Author
Caroline Hayes

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