By changing the type of DNA on the surface of the particles, the Northwestern team can get the particles to arrange differently in space. The structures that finally form are the ones that maximize DNA hybridization. DNA is the stabilizing force, the glue that holds the structure together. These structures are a new form of matter, said Mirkin, that would be difficult, if not impossible, to make any other way.
He likens the process to building a house. Starting with basic materials such as bricks, wood, siding, stone and shingles, a construction team can build many different types of houses out of the same building blocks. In the Northwestern work, the DNA controls where the building blocks (the gold nanoparticles) are positioned in the final crystal structure, arranging the particles in a functional way. The DNA does all the heavy lifting so the researchers dont have to.
Mirkin, Schatz and their team just used one building block, gold spheres, but as the method is further developed, a multitude of building blocks of different sizes can be used -- with different composition (gold, silver and fluorescent particles, for example) and different shapes (spheres, rods, cubes and triangles). Controlling the distance between the nanoparticles is also key to the structures function.
Once you get good at this you can build anything you want, said Mirkin, director of Northwesterns International Institute for Nanotechnology.
The rules that govern self-assembly a
|Contact: Megan Fellman|