A technique for controlling the orientation of manufactured DNA shapes now removes one of the last barriers for the combination of molecular devices with conventional semiconductor chips.

As a proof-of-concept, they arranged more than 3,000 glowing moon-shaped nanoscale molecular devices into a flower-shaped instrument for indicating the polarization of light. Each of 12 petals pointed in a different direction around the center of the flower, and within in each petal about 250 moons were aligned to the direction of the petal. Because each moon only glows when struck by polarized light matching its orientation, the end result is a flower whose petals light up in sequence as the polarization of light shined upon it is rotated. The flower, which spans a distance smaller than the width of a human hair, demonstrates that thousands of molecules can be reliably oriented on the surface of a chip.

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