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Printing molecular building blocks for nanotechnology

Foresight Update 28.04—April 15, 2015
ISSN 1078-9731

Nanotech News

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In this issue:

Solid-phase synthesis of custom-made DNA nanotubes

A year ago we cited the development of “Bigger, stiffer, roomier molecular cages from structural DNA nanotechnology”. Another research group has just published a different method to achieve a similar goal: building scaffolds to organize functional components. A hat tip to for describing this new method for fabricating DNA nanotubes. The McGill University news release “Building tailor-made DNA nanotubes step by step”:

Researchers at McGill University have developed a new, low-cost method to build DNA nanotubes block by block – a breakthrough that could help pave the way for scaffolds made from DNA strands to be used in applications such as optical and electronic devices or smart drug-delivery systems. …

Flexible supercapacitor from stacked nanomaterial

The exceptional properties of nanomaterials can make them useful in ways that are not immediately obvious. A hat tip to for reporting a new supercapacitor based on a novel material derived from graphene. This is yet another advance from the laboratory of James Tour, winner of the 2008 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology in the Experimental category. …

DNA nanoswitches open window on molecular interactions

Part of the problem in building complex molecular machine systems—whether the evolved systems that are the foundation of biology, or the artificial systems being designed to implement various nanotechnology applications eventually leading to high-throughput atomically precise manufacturing (APM)—is the fabrication and organization of the needed nanostructures. The other part is understanding how these molecular components interact so that these interactions can be orchestrated to accomplish the desired functions. Conventional methods for studying molecular interactions are difficult and expensive, but now a simple form of DNA nanotechnology provides a method to make such studies much more accessible …

New scaffold for nanotechnology engineered from amyloid-like proteins

Among the specific recommendations of the 2007 Productive Nanosystems Technology Roadmap is the development of modular molecular composite nanosystems (MMCNs) in which “million-atom-scale DNA frameworks with dense arrays of distinct, addressable, [atomically precise] binding sites” provide scaffolds for organizing various nanoscale functional components (page x of Executive Summary of Productive Nanosystems: A Technology Roadmap PDF). Despite the obvious advantages of large DNA scaffolds, other possibilities are conceivable. Would protein scaffolds engineered for tissue engineering or other applications be suitable? …

Cotranscriptional folding of single RNA strand added to nanotechnology toolkit

We have drawn attention here to RNA nanotechnology because RNA can function as a genetic material, as can DNA, so it has a molecular recognition code similar (but not identical) to that of DNA, but it can also assume a wider range of secondary structures than can DNA, and thus can also function catalytically, as do proteins. Since the replication and transmission of genetic information and the catalysis of chemical reactions are the two most basic functions of the molecular machinery of life, it is of considerable interest to explore what role RNA nanotechnology could play in developing the artificial molecular machine systems that will lead both to near term advances in various areas of nanotechnology and to the ultimate development of high-throughput atomically precise manufacturing (APM). Structural DNA nanotechnology predates RNA nanotechnology by a decade or more, and one of key developments in building more complex nanostructures and devices from DNA has been DNA origami. So, what might we expect from last summer’s introduction of RNA origami? …

Automated synthesis expands nanotechnology building block repertoire

… In recent weeks, the blogosphere has greeted a radical advance in synthetic organic chemistry with titles like “3-D Printer for Small Molecules Opens Access to Customized Chemistry” (Phys Org), “Scientists Unveil 3D Printer for Small Molecules” (STGIST), and “This Chemistry 3D Printer Can Synthesize Molecules from Scratch”. To what extent does this huge advance in synthetic chemistry technology amount to bringing the positional control of 3D-printing to the molecular scale? How close does it get us to APM [high-throughput atomically precise manufacturing]? …

—Nanodot posts by James Lewis

Foresight Events and News

The winners of the 2014 Feynman Prizes will be announced about mid-April.

Nominations for the 2015 Foresight Institute Feynman Prizes: Experimental and Theory are now open and are due on October 31, 2015. Nomination instructions. Winners will be announced in early 2016.

Nominations for the 2015 Distinguished Student Award are now open and are due on October 31, 2015. Nomination instructions. Winners will be announced in early 2016.

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