Gold Nanoparticles Harness Viral Mechanisms to Potentially Create Advanced Nanociruitry

Wed, 01/12/2011 - 5:00am
by Eva Blaylock, US Air Force (
bind metal nanoparticles to a virus( As a first step in exploring viral (peptide) bonding mechanisms that could eventually form the building blocks of highly complex computational systems and other transition-metals-based technologies of tomorrow, researchers from the Air Force Research Laboratory and the University of  New Mexico discovered a way to synthesize specific peptide sequences that bind metal nanoparticles to a virus. The most recent transition element to have undergone successful bonding (with the Q beta virus) is gold.

One of the smallest symmetrical structures in nature is that of a virus, which self-constructs via peptide sequences. A peptide is a short polymer created from the linking, in a defined order, of amino acids forming a bond. A peptide sequence is the order in which amino acid residues, connected by peptide bonds, lie in the chain of peptides and proteins. The idea of nanotechnology is to engineer a biological device that would naturally self-assemble into fundamental logic gate structures, specifically using the spherical MS2 and Q beta viruses.

Chemically modified to the peptide sequences in the viruses are nanometer-sized elements, in this case gold. The concept is that these viral building blocks would then be able to form a highly complex computational system, comparative in power to having several million human brains on a single chip, with the storage capacity equivalent to 50 copies of the entire Library of Congress. Subsequent efforts to bond peptides to transition metal materials could potentially create semiconductors, as well as composite insulators for basic transister device components.


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