A team of physicists has discovered how DNA molecules self-organize into adhesive patches between particles in response to assembly instructions. Its findings offer a “proof of concept” for an innovative way to produce materials with a well-defined connectivity between the particles.

The work is reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 “We show that one can program particles to make tailored structures with customized properties,” explains Jasna Brujic, a professor in New York University’s Department of Physics and one of the researchers. “While cranes, drills, and hammers must be controlled by humans in constructing buildings, this work reveals how one can use physics to make smart materials that ‘know’ how to assemble themselves.”

Scientists have long sought a means for molecules to self-assemble and have achieved breakthroughs on many fronts. However, less developed are measures in which these tiny particles self-assemble with a preprogrammed number of bonds.

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