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Switchable Nanostructures Made with DNA

Opens possibility of responsive ‘nanomachines’ for applications in energy and data storage

December 20, 2009

UPTON, NY — 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 — this time resulting in switchable, three-dimensional and small-cluster structures that might be useful, for example, as biosensors, in solar cells, and as new materials for data storage. The work is described in Nature Nanotechnology, published online December 20, 2009.

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 — until now.