The PI will construct the smallest reported light source with emission similar to laser light. Its brightness will be at least two orders of magnitude higher than state of the art fluorescent nanoparticles of similar size. Such a nanoscopic laser source will be valuable in guiding and assisting microscopic surgery, specifically in the brain. The PI has a well-established record of mentoring and outreach. The PI will continue these activities, e.g. mentoring a summer undergraduate student during the proposed research.
The small size of the nanolaser will enable accessing the spaces between cells. The high brightness will enable triggering local photochemical reactions. Such a remote light source could photo stimulate a single synapse, a step towards wireless remote information exchange between the nervous system. This could also produce chemical species which selectively destroy cancer cells targeted by the nanolaser particles. The nanolaser is a unique molecular structure, its material scaffold being a virus shell. The advantage of using such a bio-enabled approach is due to the inherited molecular precision in structural organization and from self-assembly, which occurs spontaneously from simple, benign reagents.