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Picture of the Day

Single-celled architects inspire new nanotechnology

Researchers have found inspiration in microscopic, jewel-like, unicellular creatures known as diatoms since their discovery in the late 18th century. Diatoms inhabit oceans, lakes, rivers and soils, and through their respiration, produce close to a quarter of the oxygen on Earth. In a new study, scientists have designed a range of diatom-like nanostructures. To achieve this, they borrow techniques used by naturally-occurring diatoms to deposit layers of silica -- the primary constituent in glass -- in order to grow their intricate shells. Using a technique known as DNA origami, the group designed nanoscale platforms of various shapes to which particles of silica, drawn by electrical charge, could stick. The new research demonstrates that silica deposition can be effectively applied to synthetic, DNA-based architectures, improving their elasticity and durability. The work could ultimately have far-reaching applications in new optical systems, semiconductor nanolithography, nanoelectronics, nanorobotics and medical applications, including drug delivery.

Visit Website | Image credit: Courtesy the Yan Lab, Xiaoguo Liu for the Biodesign Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics