Van der Waals-Zeeman Colloquium

Tuesday, 10 November 2009, 16:00

Towards self-replicating materials of DNA-functionalized particles

Dr. Mirjam Leunissen

Spontaneous self-organization of matter occurs on many different scales, from atomic nuclei to entire galaxies. In my research, I focus on micrometer-sized 'colloidal' particles, because these can be readily studied with microscopes and because their self-organized structures are useful for applications. It was recently suggested that DNA could form a powerful tool to guide such particles to their designated neighbors, as it allows for very specific and reversible interactions. In this talk, I will go a step further and show how we can use the folding capacity of single-stranded DNA to gain unprecedented kinetic control over the particles' binding strength and association kinetics - somewhat like a nano-contact glue. These investigations are not only of fundamental interest, but serve a bigger goal too: the creation of a new class of materials that have sufficient information encoded in their building blocks to self-assemble and to self-replicate. Such a system would enable the efficient fabrication of large quantities of microstructured materials and could give us valuable insight into the mechanisms of self-organization. Here, I will present a colloidal self-replication scheme based on DNA-mediated interactions, together with the results of our first tests of its various components.