The second line of investigation focuses on photonic nanostructures that interact with light, such as so-called nanoantennas. These nano-scale antennas can be designed to interact with different wavelengths of light. These antennas could eventually be an alternative to traditional photovoltaic cells for generating solar energy, by helping focus and direct lightwaves for increased efficiency.
NanoGUNE scientists are taking part in the European Nanoantenna Project, studying potential applications of nanoantennas in diagnostics.
The center is also working on self-assembly, nanoparticles that can manipulate themselves into becoming larger structures. “This imitates the manufacturing mechanisms in nature,” says Zárate. “Human beings are basically the result of a highly complex self-assembly process.”
Scientists are manufacturing nanothreads out of organic molecules, which could be used in high capacity batteries or in tissues for medical applications.
The group focused on nanobiology is studying nanocrystals, quantum dots that could be used for disease diagnostics. The dots emit visible light when stimulated with sufficient radiation, and they can be modified to adhere to cancer cells, for instance, which could allow for the development of new methods of diagnostics and visualization of diseased cells and tissue.
A final research group is investigating new methods for manufacturing devices. For instance, scientists are studying alternatives to silicon such as graphene, which could allow for the design of new ultra-fast computers.
The center is also studying the mechanisms that plants utilize to convert sunlight into energy, known as biological energy transfer mechanisms. Recreating and improving these systems could be useful in sectors as varied as fuel production, biomedical diagnostics, and photovoltaic solar cells.
Article published in February 2011