Simple nanoscale building blocks can self-assemble into ordered structures, but it isn't an easy matter to precisely position different types of building blocks in three dimensions. Two papers in Nature describe the programming of encodable interactions between building blocks to this end - achieved by exploiting the recognition capabilities of DNA base pairing to direct assembly.
Chad Mirkin, George Schatz and colleagues tune the interactions between DNA molecules attached to gold nanoparticles and separate DNA linkers to drive the particles to assemble into different crystals with a well-defined symmetry. Oleg Gang and colleagues, in contrast, allow complementary DNA strands attached to nanoparticle surfaces to interact directly with each other and thereby realize crystals with an open structure that can be tuned by temperature.
The hope now is to extend the approach to make new classes of ordered multicomponent materials with useful properties.
Chad Mirkin (Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA) Author paper 
Oleg Gang (Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY, USA) Author paper 
(C) Nature press release.
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