For a layperson’s explanation of 2005 Feynman Prize winner Christian Schafmeister’s work, see this piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
“Taking this cue from nature, Dr. Schafmeister and his students have spent the last five years concocting their own set of 14 building blocks — the molecular equivalent of Lego pieces.
“By his estimation, that’s enough to make roughly 140 trillion structures. So creating different shapes is no longer the challenge; rather, ‘it’s finding those sequences that do interesting things,’ he said…
” ‘You can sculpt almost anything,’ said William A. Goddard III, director of the Materials and Process Simulation Center at the California Institute of Technology. ‘Proteins are like a piece of string, but his structure is like having a wide ribbon’ that can be used to build all sorts of three-dimensional objects.
“This ‘bottom-up’ approach to building nanotech devices still must be further developed, but eventually will be essentially for building nanomachines, he suggested.”