Crystalline perfection

Chad Mirkin of Northwestern University, USA, and his research team have used DNA and nanoparticles to build near-perfect single crystals for the first time, emulating the structures favored by nature. Single crystals are the backbone of many things we rely on - diamonds for beauty as well as industrial applications, sapphires for lasers and silicon for electronics, Mirkin. The quality and thus form and function depends on the material's precise atomic arrangement. Mirkin and his team suggest that they can now make precise crystalline nanomaterials. In the Northwestern study, strands of complementary DNA act as bonds between disordered gold nanoparticles, transforming them into an orderly crystal. The researchers determined that the ratio of the DNA linker's length to the size of the nanoparticle is critical. Our method could lead to novel technologies and even enable new industries, much as the ability to grow silicon in perfect crystalline arrangements made possible the multibillion-dollar semiconductor industry, he says.