How to visualize biomolecules right in the palm of your hand

Wishing you had something besides paper models or simulations to show how DNA, RNA, and proteins work? With our P51™ Molecular Fluorescence Viewer, you can experiment with those molecules in a simple, visual way. This guide will help you bring this tiny but powerful tool into your classroom.

What is fluorescence?

Fluorescence can be used in research as a visual marker

Fluorescent molecules absorb light energy from specific wavelengths of light and then release some of that energy back out as light of a different color with a longer wavelength. Because these molecules are emitting light rather than simply reflecting it, they appear to glow. 

Many molecules found in nature fluoresce, like those found in jellyfish and sea anemones. Scientists have harnessed such molecules to visualize structures and processes that are otherwise undetectable. And with the P51, you can bring that technique to your lab or classroom!

What is the P51 Molecular Fluorescence Viewer?

The P51 is a handheld fluorescence viewer designed to enable scientists and students to explore scientific phenomena by direct naked-eye visualization of molecules and their functions. See DNA, RNA, proteins, and more light up to better understand how they work!

Traditionally, when scientists study molecules in the lab using fluorescence, it requires complex and expensive equipment. With the P51, you can use this technology right in the palm of your hand!

How does the P51 viewer work?

The P51 Fluorescence Viewer

Simply place your samples inside the P51, turn on the blue light, and see your tubes light up! The LEDs in the P51 shine safe blue light to excite fluorescent molecules in your tubes. The yellow or orange acrylic filter in the front filters out the bright blue light so you can see the emitted fluorescence from the excited molecules. The whole system is housed in a sturdy cardboard box, making it both affordable and durable. 

As for what kind of molecules you can observe with the P51, we have also developed a whole suite of engaging and innovative curriculum and hands-on lab activities that help students understand how these biological molecules work (see table below).

See the P51 in action:

What can I do with the P51 Molecular Fluorescence Viewer?

We offer a variety of accompanying P51 Molecular Glow Labs compatible with the P51 Fluorescence Viewer that cover a variety of biology topics and techniques, including:

Learning Lab Molecule visualized Techniques Topics
DNA Glow Lab DNA (single vs. double-stranded) Micropipetting
Fluorescence detection
DNA structure
Hydrogen bonds
Base pairing
Enzyme Lab: β-Gal Glow™ Products of enzyme-catalyzed reactions Micropipetting
Fluorescence detection
Reaction rates
Competitive inhibition
Free (!) Chlorophyll Lab Chlorophyll Paper chromatography Photosynthesis
Environmental science
BioBits®: Central Dogma RNA, proteins Micropipetting
Cell-free technology
Central Dogma
Protein synthesis
Gene expression
Synthetic biology
BioBits®: Protein Structure and Function Proteins Micropipetting
Cell-free technology
Levels of protein structure
Protein structure/function
Protein synthesis
Protein analysis
Introduction to Fluorescence Fluorescent marker ink Micropipetting
Serial dilutions
Standard curves
Scientific notation
COVID qPCR Lab Fluorescent results from qPCR test Micropipetting
Gel electrophoresis (optional)
Infectious disease
Molecular diagnostics

What else do we need to start using the P51 Molecular Fluorescence Viewer

The additional materials you will need depends on the P51 lab, but generally, you will need:

Can I use the P51 at home?

Yes! If you want to observe fluorescent molecules at home, our  P51 @home: STEM Explorations That GLOW! or BioBits @home: Central Dogma kit has you covered. 

Bonus trivia! Why is it called the P51?

In 1952, an X-ray diffraction image of the DNA double helix was made under the direction of Dr. Rosalind Franklin. That important image, known as Photo 51, led scientists to the discovery of DNA’s molecular structure. The P51 fluorescence viewer honors Dr. Franklin’s pioneering work, and provides students and scientists alike with a way to visualize important molecules and biological processes.

Related resources:

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