Switchable Nanostructures Made with DNA
Opens possibility of responsive 'nanomachines' for applications in energy and data storage
Story Courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory, BNL Media & Communications Office
Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have found a new way to use a synthetic form of DNA to control the assembly of nanoparticles - resulting in switchable, three-dimensional and small-cluster structures that might be useful as biosensors, in solar cells, and as new materials for data storage.
The Brookhaven team, led by physicist Oleg Gang, has been refining techniques to use strands of artificial DNA as a highly specific kind of Velcro or glue to link up nanoparticles. Such DNA-based self-assembly holds promise for the rational design of a range of new materials for applications in molecular separation, electronics, energy conversion, and other fields. But none of these structures has had the ability to change in a programmable manner in response to molecular stimuli.
"Now we're using a special type of DNA-linking device - a kind of 'smart glue' - that affects how the particles connect to make structures that are switchable between different configurations," says Gang. This reliable, reversible switching could be used to regulate functional properties –e.g., a material's fluorescence and energy transfer properties - to make new materials that are responsive to changing conditions, or to alter their functions on demand.
Future studies will make use of precise imaging capabilities, such as advanced electron microscopy tools at the CFN and higher-resolution x-ray techniques that will become available at Brookhaven's new light source, NSLS-II, now under construction.