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Can butterfly wings help detect viruses faster?

Can butterfly wings help detect viruses faster?

The center pupil of the so called anterior "eyespot" on the fore wing of the African butterfly Bicyclus anynana

Full article issued by Swinburne University.

An international team, co-led by the Director of the Swinburne University Centre for Translational Atomaterials, ARC Future Fellow Professor Baohua Jia, and head of The Australian National University’s Nonlinear Physics Centre, Distinguished Professor Yuri Kivshar, have made a breakthrough discovery that could potentially lead to faster, more accurate molecular or virus tests, including for COVID-19.

The researchers were inspired by how light is concentrated in butterfly wings and have discovered a new way to concentrate light on a chip, which has powerful potential for molecular or virus detection. Butterfly wings are made up of thousands of layers of tiny scales. When light hits a butterfly wing, it travels through those layers, and each layer has a concentrating effect.

The researchers designed and fabricated a nanophotonic chip that mimicked the structure of a butterfly wing, using a 3D laser nanoprinter. When they deposited a testing sample on top of the newly printed chip, they found they had achieved the ability to manipulate space and time to concentrate light as precisely as they pleased.

Because concentrated light has the power to pick up fewer pathogenic cells, it means everything can be scaled right down – wait times, sample sizes and testing materials.  

This brings enormous advantages, including faster and more accurate molecular detection in blood and saliva. This would vastly improve scientists' ability to test and track viruses, and could also play an important role in preventative health by revolutionising how surplus sugars and other anomalies in the blood are detected. 

‘We are looking forward to developing more applications based on this technology in the near future,’ Professor Baohua Jia says.

The research was supported by an ARC Discovery Projects grant.


Image Credit: a microscopic view of the wing of the butterfly Bicyclus anynana. Credit: Gilles San Martin Wikipedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0).

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