Nature's Nano-properties Inspire Solution for Blindness

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Hyuck Choo's group develops a solution to glaucoma-based blindness that models nanostructures found on butterfly wings.


May 1, 2018

The longtail glasswing butterfly has an intriguing characteristic: transparent wings. The wings consist of nanopillars (100 nm in diameter) which give them unique anti-reflective properties. Radwanul Hasan Siddique, who studied the characteristics of these nanopillars in his graduate program, joined Caltech as a postdoctoral scholar for electrical engineering professor Hyuck Choo, and together they've developed a solution for glaucoma-based blindness.

One of the most common causes of blindness, glaucoma is thought to damage eyesight by increasing the pressure on one's optic nerves. Early detection and mitigation of this pressure could potentially save millions of people from going blind. Over the past several years Choo created an tiny, implantable drum that is inserted on one's eye to measure eye pressure. With help from Siddique and graduate student Vinayak Narasimhan, the team has made significant improvements to the drum's accuracy through silicon nitride nanopillars, similar to that of the glasswing butterfly.

Even better, the nanopillars extend the lifespan of the implants because of special water-attracting properties. This characteristic - called biofouling - is extremely advantageous to medical impants. Choo and his team are exploring new applications for these nanopillars.

Their work was recently published in Nature Nanotechnology: "Multifunctional biophotonic nanostructures inspired by longtail glasswing butterfly wings for medical devices". Siddique and Narasimhan's nanopillar fabrication was conducted in the KNI cleanroom. Read more about their incredible break through here or watch the video below: