The miniaturization of electronic circuitry is limited by the size of features that can be etched into a surface using conventional lithography. Bridging the gap to the molecular world of self-assembling structures has been a major challenge in nanotechnology.
Paul Rothemund of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Gregory Wallraff of the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California, and their colleagues now show that DNA, folded origami-style into triangles measuring 127 nanometres on each side, can slot neatly into matching depressions carved onto a silica surface.
In principle, each chunk of DNA origami can be attached to an individual molecule such as a conducting nanowire or a fluorescent protein. As a result, these structures offer a way to control the positioning and orientation of single molecules using straightforward lithographic techniques.