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A ‘Printing Press’ for Nanoparticles

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Image Credit: McGill University, Thomas Edwardson

Gold nanoparticles have unusual optical, electronic and chemical properties, which scientists are seeking to put to use in a range of new technologies, from nanoelectronics to cancer treatments. Some of the most interesting properties of nanoparticles emerge when they are brought close together – either in clusters of just a few particles or in crystals made up of millions of them.  Yet particles that are just millionths of an inch in size are too small to be manipulated by conventional lab tools, so a major challenge has been finding ways to assemble these bits of gold while controlling the three-dimensional shape of their arrangement. One approach that researchers have developed has been to use tiny structures made from synthetic strands of DNA to help organize nanoparticles. Researchers from McGill University’s Department of Chemistry are working on a procedure for making a DNA structure with a specific pattern of strands coming out of it; at the end of each strand is a chemical “sticky patch.”  When a gold nanoparticle is brought into contact to the DNA nanostructure, it sticks to the patches. The scientists then dissolve the assembly in distilled water, separating the DNA nanostructure into its component strands and leaving behind the DNA imprint on the gold nanoparticle.