UPTON, NY -- The speed of nanoparticle assembly can be accelerated with the assistance of the molecule that carries life's genetic instructions, DNA, a team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory recently found. Nanoparticles, particles with dimensions on the order of billionths of a meter, could potentially be used for more efficient energy generation and data storage, as well as improved methods for diagnosing and treating disease. Learning how to control and tailor the assembly of these miniscule particles into larger functional systems remains a major challenge for scientists. The Brookhaven results, published online on October 11, 2006, by the Journal of the American Chemical Society, are a step in that direction.
"Understanding how to self-assemble these types of nanomaterials has applications in all areas of nanotechnology, from optics to electronics to magnetic materials," said the study's lead author Mathew Maye, a Brookhaven chemist. Maye is part of a team of interdisciplinary scientists from Brookhaven's new Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) and the biology department. The researchers found a way to control the assembly of gold nanoparticles using rigid, double-stranded DNA. Their technique takes advantage of this molecule's natural tendency to pair up components called bases, known by the code letters A, T, G and C.
"In biology, DNA is mainly an informational material, while in nanoscience, DNA is an excellent structural material due to its natural ability to self-assemble according to well-specified programmable rules," said Oleg Gang, the Brookhaven physicist who leads the research team. "Using biological materials such as DNA, we are developing approaches to control the assembly of inorganic nano-objects. However, in order to really turn this attractive approach into nanotechnology, we have to understand the complexity of interaction in such hybrid systems."