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© ZB - Fotoreport
German Trends and Innovations

March 20, 2008

Splitting Hairs with Light

Is it possible to drill holes only a millionth of a millimetre in size? Yes, with the latest invention of the Jena-based Institute of Photonic Technology (IPHT). NanoCut is the name of the process that won the German researchers the title “Research Highlight of the Year 2007” awarded by British journal Nature Nanotechnology. NanoCut has succeeded in focusing the energy of a laser on a point the size of human chromosomes for the first time. This makes it possible to target specific areas of genetic material that carry a genetic defect and switch them off – thereby opening up entirely new medical possibilities. The IPHT scientists call this process “optical knockout”. The secret of the process lies in metal nanoparticles that catch the laser light. Impulses excite the particles, which then heat up and burn a precise hole in tissue. As a result, the size of the hole is no longer dependent on the laser, but on the size of the nanoparticles, which in the case of NanoCut are up to 50,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

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© Deutschland magazine/February/March 2008/Roland Knauer



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