Scientists have discovered a way to combine nanoparticles into composites, using DNA as the paste between them.


Scientists at the Brookhaven National Laboratory have figured out a way to mix and match different nanoparticles to create interesting composites. By combining particles with different optical, magnetic or chemical properties, they can manufacture new multifunctional materials for a wide array of purposes.

The method discovered utilizes the attractive properties of complimentary pairs in DNA: The scientists coat the nanoparticles in a chemical “construction platform”, to which DNA strands can be attached. Strands of synthetic, lab-designed DNA molecules are attached to the construction platform, and the assemblies are then brought together. The DNA naturally links up with their complimentary pairs and the composite is finished.

“Our study demonstrates that DNA-driven assembly methods enable the by-design creation of large-scale ‘superlattice’ nanocomposites from a broad range of nanocomponents now available-including magnetic, catalytic, and fluorescent nanoparticles,” said Oleg Gang, scientist at Brookhaven.
Brookhaven National Laboratory
There are plenty of applications for this discovery, including the manufacture of quantum dots, which could be used to create electrical switches and sensors in the future. Truth be told though, there’s plenty of applications which haven’t been discovered yet; mixing nanoparticles opens up many possibilities which scientists will soon have to opportunity to explore. “Modern nano-synthesis methods provide scientists with diverse types of nanoparticles from a wide range of atomic elements,” explains Yugang Zhang, author of the study’s paper. “With our approach, scientists can explore pairings of these particles in a rational way.”