Molecular robots on nano-assembly lines
12 May 2010
Teams of automated programmable molecular robots working together on nanoscale assembly lines is one step closer, say scientists in the US.
A collaboration between four US institutions has developed a 'molecular spider' whose direction and motion can be controlled to make it travel along a particular path,1 while a separate team led by Ned Seeman at New York University has developed a nanoscale assembly line that can be programmed to 'manufacture' eight different products.2
Milan Stojanovic and colleagues from Columbia University and collaborators at Arizona State University, the University of Michigan and the California Institute of Technology developed their DNA walker - a spider-shaped molecule made of DNA - to move along a fixed track on a surface. 'We don't use a remote control or anything like that so essentially we wind it up, release it and away it goes,' says Stojanovic.
The walker is made up of an inert body and four single strands of DNA. Three of the strands act as legs and include DNAzymes - DNA molecules that catalyse a chemical reaction - while the fourth strand anchors the walker in position at the beginning of the path until it is ready to move. The path surface is programmed to initiate the 'walking' process and is made of folded DNA strands designed to complement the DNA in the legs of the walker.
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