15 March 2016

Assembling computer chips using DNA

DNA origami attracted to create microchips

Anna Obraztsova, N+1

American scientists have created a hollow cylinder of DNA and were able to put gold nanoparticles inside it. According to the authors of the study, this is an important step towards obtaining computer chips from DNA, simpler and cheaper to manufacture than modern ones. The work is presented at the 251st National Meeting-exhibition of the American Chemical Society in San Diego.

It is not the first time that researchers are interested in the possibility of creating computer chips from DNA, which should reduce their size. For example, the smallest parts on popular modern computer chips are about 14 nanometers in size. This is more than 10 times the width of a single-stranded DNA molecule. Although DNA itself is a poor conductor, it can serve as a framework for placing conductive elements from another material.

To create a frame of a given shape, scientists used the DNA origami technique. The creation of an origami structure begins with the synthesis of a long single-stranded DNA molecule, then short DNA chains called "paper clips" are added to it – they can complementarily bind to different parts of the long chain, stitching them together. Sequences of "paper clips" are selected in such a way that the intended structure eventually develops.

Researchers believe that computer chips can be made even more compact if we switch from two-dimensional structures to three-dimensional ones. To test the applicability of DNA origami to produce conductive elements, they created a hollow cylinder of DNA, which was then vertically attached to a silicon substrate. In addition, with the help of short DNA chains, scientists were able to "fasten" gold nanoparticles to the center of the site bounded by the cylinder. The authors' future plans include connecting such elements with semiconductor nanowires and assembling them into a single circuit.

Drawing from the American Chemical Society press release 
DNA ‘origami’ could help build faster, cheaper computer chips – VM

The project manager, Adam Wooley, believes that DNA can greatly reduce the cost of manufacturing computer chips. The equipment for creating their microscopic parts is very expensive, whereas obtaining self-assembling structures from DNA will not require much.

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