Researchers at New York University and China's Nanjing University said the programmable unit allows researchers to capture and maneuver patterns on a scale that is unprecedented.
New York University Professor Nadrian Seeman, one of the study's co-authors, said the two-armed nanorobotic device enables the creation of new DNA structures, thereby potentially serving as a factory for assembling the building blocks of new materials. With that capability, it has the potential to develop new synthetic fibers, advance the encryption of information and improve DNA-scaffolded computer assembly, he said.
In the two-armed nanorobotic device, the arms face each other, ready to capture molecules that make up a DNA sequence. Using set strands that bind to its molecules, the arms are then able to change the structure of the device. This changes the sticky ends available to capture a new pattern component.
The researchers said their device performs with 100 percent accuracy, as confirmed by atomic force microscopy that permits features a few billionths of a meter to be visualized.
The research that included Nanjing Professor Shou-Jun Xiao and graduate students Hongzhou Gu and Jie Chao, is reported in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
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