DNA-Based Molecular-Scale Nanofabrication

Background: For over a decade, scientists have been studying bottom-up approaches to nanofabrication, namely starting with the smallest functional unit or device and utilizing various self-assembly techniques to build up larger circuits and systems. To this end, DNA based self-assembly methods have played a prominent role due to the unique molecular recognition properties of DNA, and the capability to chemically synthesize short DNA molecules of specified sequence. In recent years, DNA self-assembled structures have progressed from simple DNA branched motif building blocks known as tiles, to two-dimensional (2D) periodic lattices, to arbitrary 2D shapes, and even some interesting three-dimensional (3D) structures.

In 2006, building on previous advances in DNA scaffold self-assembly, Rothemund succeeded in devising a general and versatile method, termed DNA origami, to fold long single stranded DNA molecules into arbitrary two-dimensional shapes. Furthermore, additional DNA strands could be attached to the 2D “canvas” to create secondary patterns with a mere 6nm spatial resolution, i.e. arbitrary 2D patterns with ~ 6nm x 6nm “pixel” size. DNA origami is quick to implement and cost effective, due to the rapidly expanding biotechnology industry. These and other related recent advances indicate that “structural” DNA nanotechnology is now relatively mature, and it is time to examine carefully the “functional” side of DNA nanotechnology.

Objective: The program seeks to exploit the extraordinary combination of resolution, throughput and flexibility of DNA nanotechnology to build functional electronic and computational devices and systems.

Research Concentration Areas: The research areas include, but are not limited to: (1) exploration of electronic and computational functionalities in DNA nanostructures, both in the sequence and through functionalization; (2) methods to build larger structures (both 2D and 3D) beyond the current size limit of DNA origami (roughly 100nm X 100nm); and (3) means to integrate DNA nanostructures with existing technology, such as attaching DNA nanostructures to semiconductor substrates.

Impact: Low-power, light-weight electronic components are desirable in many areas of naval warfare. For example, individual Marines and SEALs could use low-power devices to reduce weight load (batteries) while enhancing their capabilities for situational awareness, communication to command centers, or saving lives. Also, UAV/UGV/UUV are becoming increasingly power and weight conscious while the demand for intelligent electronic equipment increases. Nanotechnology has the potential to meet the future needs of warfighters by drastically reducing power consumption and weight load requirements. Cost effective nanofabrication and manufacturing techniques will be key to unleashing these potentials and making nanotechnology a reality for a wide array of future naval applications.

Basic Research Challenge Topic Chief

Dr. Chagaan Baatar
ONR Code 312

Dr. Laura Kienker
ONR Code 341

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