Nature is a master builder. Using a bottom-up approach, nature takes tiny atoms and, through chemical bonding, makes crystalline materials, like diamonds, silicon and even table salt. In all of them, the properties of the crystals depend upon the type and arrangement of atoms within the crystalline lattice.
Now, a team of Northwestern University scientists has learned how to top nature by building crystalline materials from nanoparticles and DNA, the same material that defines the genetic code for all living organisms.
Using nanoparticles as "atoms" and DNA as "bonds," the scientists have learned how to create crystals with the particles arranged in the same types of atomic lattice configurations as some found in nature, but they also have built completely new structures that have no naturally occurring mineral counterpart.
The basic design rules the Northwestern scientists have established for this approach to nanoparticle assembly promise the possibility of creating a variety of new materials that could be useful in catalysis, electronics, optics, biomedicine and energy generation, storage and conversion technologies.
The new method and design rules for making crystalline materials from nanostructures and DNA will be published Oct. 14 by the journal Science.
"We are building a new periodic table of sorts," said Professor Chad A. Mirkin, who led the research. "Using these new design rules and nanoparticles as 'artificial atoms,' we have developed modes of controlled crystallization that are, in many respects, more powerful than the way nature and chemists make crystalline materials from atoms. By controlling the size, shape, type and location of nanoparticles within a given lattice, we can make completely new materials and arrangements of particles, not just what nature dictates."
Mirkin is the George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and professor of medicine, chemical and biological engineering, biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering and director of Northwestern's International Institute for Nanotechnology (IIN).
"Once we have a certain type of lattice," Mirkin said, "the particles can be moved closer together or farther apart by changing the length of the interconnecting DNA, thereby providing near-infinite tunability."
"This work resulted from an interdisciplinary collaboration that coupled synthetic chemistry with theoretical model building," said coauthor George C. Schatz, a world-renowned theoretician and the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry at Northwestern. "It was the back and forth between synthesis and theory that was crucial to the development of the design rules. Collaboration is a special aspect of research at Northwestern, and it worked very effectively for this project."
In the study, the researchers start with two solutions of nanoparticles coated with single-stranded DNA. They then add DNA strands that bind to these DNA-functionalized particles, which then present a large number of DNA "sticky ends" at a controlled distance from the particle surface; these sticky ends then bind to the sticky ends of adjacent particles, forming a macroscopic arrangement of nanoparticles.
Different crystal structures are achieved by using different combinations of nanoparticles (with varying sizes) and DNA linker strands (with controllable lengths). After a process of mixing and heating, the assembled particles transition from an initially disordered state to one where every particle is precisely located according to a crystal lattice structure. The process is analogous to how ordered atomic crystals are formed.
The researchers report six design rules that can be used to predict the relative stability of different structures for a given set of nanoparticle sizes and DNA lengths. In the paper, they use these rules to prepare 41 different crystal structures with nine distinct crystal symmetries. However, the design rules outline a strategy to independently adjust each of the relevant crystallographic parameters, including particle size (varied from 5 to 60 nanometers), crystal symmetry and lattice parameters (which can range from 20 to 150 nanometers). This means that these 41 crystals are just a small example of the near infinite number of lattices that could be created using different nanoparticles and DNA strands.
Mirkin and his team used gold nanoparticles in their work but note that their method also can be applied to nanoparticles of other chemical compositions. Both the type of nanoparticle assembled and the symmetry of the assembled structure contribute to the properties of a lattice, making this method an ideal means to create materials with predictable and controllable physical properties.
Mirkin believes that, one day soon, software will be created that allows scientists to pick the particle and DNA pairs required to make almost any structure on demand.
The Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Sciences and the National Science Foundation supported the research.
The Science paper is titled "Nanoparticle Superlattice Engineering with DNA." In addition to Mirkin and Schatz, other authors are Robert J. Macfarlane, Matthew R. Jones and Nadine Harris, all from Northwestern, and Byeongdu Lee, from Argonne National Laboratory.
A video interview of Chad Mirkin discussing the research is available upon request. Contact Lisa-Joy Zgorski at the National Science Foundation, 703-292-8311 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Megan Fellman | EurekAlert!
A new tool for discovering nanoporous materials
23.05.2017 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
Did you know that packaging is becoming intelligent through flash systems?
23.05.2017 | Heraeus Noblelight GmbH
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy