Importantly, they heat the samples of DNA-linked particles and then cool them back to room temperature. "This 'thermal processing' is somewhat similar to annealing used in forming more common crystals made from atoms," explained Nykypanchuk. "It allows the nanoparticles to unbind, reshuffle, and find more stable binding arrangements."
The team also experimented with different degrees of DNA flexibility, recognition sequences, and DNA designs in order to find a "sweet spot" of interactions where a stable, crystalline form would appear.
Results from a variety of analysis techniques, including small angle x-ray scattering at the National Synchrotron Light Source and dynamic light scattering and different types of optical spectroscopies and electron microscopy at the CFN, were combined to reveal the detail of the ordered structures and the underlying processes for their formation. These results indicate that the scientists have indeed found that sweet spot to create 3-D nanoparticle assemblies with long-range crystalline order using DNA. The crystals are remarkably open, with the nanoparticles themselves occupying only 5 percent of the crystal lattice volume, and DNA occupying another 5 percent. "This open structure leaves a lot of room for future modifications, including the incorporation of different nano-objects or biomolecules, which will lead to enhanced nanoscale properties and new classes of applications," said Maye. For example, pairing gold nanoparticles with other metals often improves catalytic activity. Additionally, the DNA linking molecules can be used as a kind of chemical scaffold for adding small molecules, polymers, or proteins.
Furthermore, once the crystal structure is set, it remains stable through repeated heating and cooling cycles, a feature important to many potential applications.
The crystals are also extraordinarily sensitive to thermal expansion - 100 times m
|Contact: Karen McNulty Walsh|
DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory