Abstract: Nature has evolved to self-assemble complex functional architectures in a sustainable bottom-up way. From bacteria to humans, biological systems arise from a common set of atomically precise nanoscale building blocks such as proteins that give rise to complex functions such as sensing, computation, and actuation. In contrast, most human-made devices are composed of building blocks with much less precision, and are assembled through a top-down process which is highly inflexible and unsustainable. Drawbacks aside, these devices are highly useful and can often surpass their biological counterparts (e.g., computers playing chess). This success is largely due to a systematic and modular engineering approach where simple but well-understood components such as transistors are put together in a programmable way. Is it possible to develop a new approach to building complex devices that combines the strengths of biomolecular self-assembly and systematic engineering? In this talk I will discuss recent work towards this goal using DNA as a nanoscale, programmable building block [1-5]. However, despite being the most programmable molecule for information processing, DNA lacks the basic physical attributes required for building high performance electronic devices. I will discuss ongoing work towards a new type of nanoscale building blocks in which DNA can be flexibly replaced with other materials such as metals and semiconductors. These nanoscale modules can be designed to self-assemble into a variety of plasmonic, photonic, and electronic architectures unattainable with any current nanofabrication techniques. This novel approach integrates the advantages of natural bottom-up assembly and engineered top-down programming and may lead to a host of new intelligent devices for technology and medicine.
1. G. Tikhomirov, S. Hoogland, P. Lee, A. Fisher, E.H. Sargent, S.O. Kelley “DNA-Based Programming of Quantum Dot Valency, Self-Assembly, and Luminescence” Nature Nanotechnology, 2011, 485-490
2. G. Tikhomirov, P. Petersen, L. Qian “Fractal assembly of micrometre-scale DNA origami arrays with arbitrary patterns” Nature, 2017, 67-71
3. G. Tikhomirov, P. Petersen, L. Qian “Programmable disorder in random DNA tilings” Nature Nanotechnology, 2017, 251-259
4. P. Petersen, G. Tikhomirov, L. Qian. “Information-based autonomous reconfiguration in systems of interacting DNA nanostructures” Nature Communications, 2018, 5362
5. G. Tikhomirov, P. Petersen, L. Qian “Triangular DNA origami tilings” JACS, 2018, 17361