Learning how to control and tailor the assembly of nanoparticles, which have dimensions on the order of billionths of a meter, could potentially lead to applications ranging from more efficient energy generation and data storage to cell-targeted systems for drug delivery. “We can synthesize nanoparticles with very well controlled optical, catalytic, and magnetic properties,” Maye said. “They are usually free-flowing in solution, but for use in a functional device, they have to be organized in three dimensions, or on surfaces, in a well-controlled manner. That’s where self assembly comes into play. We want the particles to do the work themselves.
The research group previously used rigid, double-stranded DNA to speed up and slow down the speed of nanoparticle assembly. Most recently, they also perfected a method for regulating the size of the resulting particle clusters by incorporating multiple types of DNA strands.