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Graduate School of Arts and Science: NYU Chemist Seeman Makes Breakthroughs in Nanoscience
More than a quarter century ago, NYU chemist and professor Nadrian Seeman founded and developed DNA nanotechnology, a field now pursued by laboratories across the globe. His robotic devices, awarded the 2010 Kavli Prize in Nanoscience, have the potential to create new materials a billionth of a meter in size.
In 2010, Seeman's laboratory made two significant breakthroughs:
1) Three-dimensional DNA structures: Seeman and his colleagues created DNA crystals that can self-assemble into 3D forms through synthetic sequences. This discovery has a promising avenue in nanoelectronics, where products are currently built from 2D single molecules. With the enhanced flexibility and density of 3D components, manufacturers could build parts that are smaller, closer together, and more sophisticated.
2) DNA assembly line: In partnership with China's Nanjing University, Seeman explored the potential to build novel nanoscale materials with an assembly line. The process starts with a DNA origami that uses hundreds of short DNA strands to mold a very long DNA strand into any shape. Then, DNA machines that serve as programmable devices are attached to the origami, allowing the researchers to direct the growing construct by altering the position of a nanoscale robot arm. Finally, a DNA "walker" moves along the assembly line's track, stopping at the DNA machines to collect and carry the DNA cargo components, which consist of distinct metallic nanoparticles.
As the walker moves along the pathway prescribed by the origami tile track, it encounters sequentially the assembly line's three DNA devices. These devices can be switched between an "on" state, allowing its cargo to be transferred to the walker, and an "off" state, in which no transfer occurs. In this way, the DNA product at the end of the assembly line may include cargo picked up from one, two, or three of the DNA machines.
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