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Using DNA to program the self-assembly of colloidal nanoparticles and microparticles

Abstract

DNA is not just the stuff of our genetic code; it is also a means to design self-assembling materials. Grafting DNA onto nano- and microparticles can, in principle, ‘program’ them with information that tells them exactly how to self-assemble. Although fully programmable assembly has not yet been realized, the groundwork has been laid: with an understanding of how specific interparticle attractions arise from DNA hybridization, we can now make systems that reliably assemble in and out of equilibrium. We discuss these advances, and the design rules that will allow us to control — and ultimately program — the assembly of new materials.

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Figure 1: Examples of DNA-mediated self-assembly.
Figure 2: DNA hybridization induces an effective interaction potential between DNA-grafted particles.
Figure 3: Equilibrium phase behaviour of simple systems is similar at the nanoscale and the microscale.
Figure 4: Non-equilibrium routes to assembly produce colloidal clusters and bicontinuous gels.
Figure 5: Forms of information for programming self-assembly.

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Acknowledgements

We thank M. Brenner, D. Frenkel, O. Gang, A. Tkachenko, W. Jacobs, D. Pine, P. Chaikin, J. Crocker and B. Mognetti for discussions and the National Science Foundation for funding through grant no. DMR-1435964.

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Correspondence to W. Benjamin Rogers, William M. Shih or Vinothan N. Manoharan.

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Rogers, W., Shih, W. & Manoharan, V. Using DNA to program the self-assembly of colloidal nanoparticles and microparticles. Nat Rev Mater 1, 16008 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/natrevmats.2016.8

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