Researchers Engineer Colloidal Quasicrystals Using Dna-Modified Building Blocks
Published:23 Jan.2024    Source:Northwestern University
Researchers unveils a novel methodology to engineer colloidal quasicrystals using DNA-modified building blocks. Characterized by ordered yet non-repeating patterns, quasicrystals have long perplexed scientists. "The existence of quasicrystals has been a puzzle for decades and their discovery appropriately was awarded with a Nobel Prize," said Chad Mirkin, the study's lead researcher. "Although there are now several known examples, discovered in nature or through serendipitous routes, our research demystifies their formation and more importantly shows how we can harness the programmable nature of DNA to design and assemble quasicrystals deliberately."
The focal point of the study was the assembly of decahedral nanoparticles (NPs) -- particles with ten sides -- utilizing DNA as a guiding scaffold. Through a combination of computer simulations and meticulous experiments, the team unearthed a remarkable discovery: these decahedral NPs can be orchestrated to form quasicrystalline structures with intriguing five- and six-coordinated motifs, ultimately culminating in the creation of a dodecagonal quasicrystal (DDQC). By leveraging the programmable capabilities of DNA, researchers were able to direct the assembly of these nanoparticles into a robust quasicrystalline structure. The researchers functionalized decahedral gold nanoparticles with short, double-stranded DNA, and implemented a precisely controlled cooling process to facilitate the assembly. Interestingly, the simulations discovered that, unlike most axial quasicrystals, the tiling pattern of the layers in the decahedron quasicrystal do not repeat identically from one layer to the next. Instead, a significant percentage of the tiles are different, in a random way. This randomness produces a disorder that helps to stabilize the crystal.
The implications of this breakthrough are far-reaching, offering a potential blueprint for the controlled synthesis of other complex structures previously considered beyond reach. As the scientific community delves into the boundless prospects of programmable matter, this research paves the way for transformative advancements and applications in diverse scientific domains. Through the successful engineering of colloidal quasicrystals, we have achieved a significant milestone in the realm of nanoscience. Our work not only sheds light on the design and creation of intricate nanoscale structures but also opens a world of possibilities for advanced materials and innovative nanotechnology applications.