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Nanoscale Assembly Using DNA ‘Glue’

Leveraging specificity of life’s genetic-code molecule for rational bottom-up design

EVENT: The idea of using complementary strands of synthetic DNA as a highly specific “glue” to link up nanoparticles has moved quickly from intriguing concept to functional 3-D systems, such as quantum dots with enhanced luminosity. Physicist Oleg Gang, who has led this work at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, Center for Functional Nanomaterials, will present a talk on the rapid evolution of this nanoassembly method, and discuss its future application in highly specific biosensors, optical nano-devices for solar cells, and new ways to fabricate complex materials.

WHEN: Tuesday, March 22, 2011, 11:51 a.m. Central Time

WHERE: March 2011 American Physical Society meeting, Dallas Convention Center, Dallas, TX, Room A309.

BACKGROUND: One central idea in the field of nanoscience is that if you can build things from the bottom up, atom-by-atom or molecule-by-molecule, you can rationally design materials to achieve desired functions. Taking a cue from how nature does this — using genetic code to instruct the construction of proteins and whole organisms from plants to people — scientists have devised a new way to use DNA’s specificity in the construction of inanimate nanoscale structures. The method relies on the attractive forces between the bases A, T, G, and C on complementary strands of DNA. By attaching hair-like extensions of DNA with specific “recognition sequences” of complementary bases to various nanoparticles, they can get the nanoparticles to link up in solution. By varying the attractive forces with complementary and non-complementary strands, as well as the lengths of the strands, they can precisely control interparticle distances. Gang will discuss the types of nanostructures this technique has already achieved, including some functional materials, as well as future applications for this design strategy.

This research is funded by the DOE Office of Science. The Center for Functional Nanomaterials at Brookhaven National Laboratory is one of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers (NSRCs), premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE’s Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge and Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories. For more information about the DOE NSRCs, please visit

2011-11250  |  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office