On the trails of viruses

technology report online, January 2016

Revolutionary development for virus research: clear detection and observations of viruses in their natural environment.

Stefan Weidlich, physicist at Specialty Fiber Optics Research & Development at Heraeus Quarzglas
Stefan Weidlich, physicist at Specialty Fiber Optics Research & Development at Heraeus Quarzglas

Who does not know that during the winter season: viruses are everywhere and spread rapidly. They often cause life-threatening infections such as flu or intestinal diseases. But viruses are nearly invisible - they are 300 to 400 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. The definite identification is extensive up to now and not possible without manipulation of the properties.

Seeing viruses in a new light with nanohole fibers

Scientists at the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology (IPHT) in Jena, in cooperation with others at Heraeus Quarzglas, Harvard University (in the United States) and Leiden University (in the Netherlands), have succeeded in the marker-free and nondestructive detection of viruses with dimensions smaller than 20 nanometers (a nanometer is one millionth of a millimeter). They did so using an innovative nanohole fiber. The unusual glass fiber is made of quartz glass, that is one of the purest technical materials manufactured today. The fiber can be integrated in standard microscopes, thereby expanding their detection limit to other nanoparticles.

Stefan Weidlich, Specialty Fiber Optics Research & Development at Heraeus Quarzglas, explains: „Our application is distinguished by the fact that we put the viruses into quartz glass – one of the purest technical materials manufactured today. The fiber itself conducts light almost perfectly, without scattering it. The size and movement of the viruses can be determined by means of light scattering."

Nanohole fiber
Source: Heraeus
The core of the fiber contains a nanohole with a diameter of 200 nanometers that extends along the entire fiber. Test viruses swimming in water are poured into this hole, and light is fed into the fiber core. The size and movement of the viruses can be determined by means of light scattering.

Read as well:

to top