Engineering of Advanced Materials

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Cluster of Excellence

Engineering of Advanced Materials

Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg


Cluster of Excellence
Engineering of
Advanced Materials (EAM)

Nägelsbachstrasse 49b
91052 Erlangen, Germany
03. March 2017

DNA double helix structures crystals - A method for DNA programmed material synthesis

Comparison of electron microscopy images (left) with geometric construction (right) allow identifying the aggregates as clathrate-like.

For the first time researchers have successfully produced complex crystal lattices known as clathrates from nanoparticles using a new method that employs DNA strands. The programed synthesis of clathrates represents a template for the precision modeling of novel nanomaterials. In cooperation with the world’s leading nanotechnology experts from the University of Michigan and Northwestern University, EAM Professor Michael Engel from the Institute for Multiscale Simulation (MSS), has opened up a new era in DNA programed material synthesis. The team has succeeded in reordering pyramid-shaped gold crystals to form complex clathrate compounds.

For some years now, scientists have been using the structuring potential of DNA to create new materials on the nanoscale. For the synthesis process, the 250 nanometer-sized gold crystals – which in the experiment represent atoms that can form clathrates – are held in a suspension which is supplemented with artificial DNA. The strands of DNA attach themselves to the gold particles and move them into a specific position in a self-organizing process. Depending on the length of the DNA sequences and arrangement of the base pairs, various three-dimensional lattice structures are formed. Hence, DNA programming can be used to determine the architecture of the crystal lattice with extreme precision. Clathrates are of particular interest in the field of materials research because they are composed of nuclear “cages” in which other substances, usually gases, can be embedded. The controlled production of colloidal clathrates opens up a wide range of potential applications. The targeted manipulation of certain parameters of the crystal lattice can lead to material properties that cannot be achieved in simpler colloidal crystals.

Clathrate colloidal crystals
Research Area A3
Haixin Lin, Sangmin Lee, Lin Sun, Matthew Spellings,
Michael Engel, Sharon C. Glotzer, Chad A. Mirkin
Science, 2017, 355, 931– 935

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