Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

NASA Breakthrough Method May Lead To Smaller Electronics

Date:
November 26, 2002
Source:
NASA/Ames Research Center
Summary:
NASA scientists have invented a breakthrough biological method to make ultra-small structures that may well be used to produce electronics 10 to 100 times smaller than today’s components.

NASA scientists have invented a breakthrough biological method to make ultra-small structures that may well be used to produce electronics 10 to 100 times smaller than today’s components.

As part of their new method, scientists use modified proteins from ‘extremophile’ microbes that live in near-boiling, acidic hot springs to grow mesh-like structures so small that an electron microscope is needed to see them. A research article describing the new technique appeared in the Nov. 24 on-line version of the journal Nature Materials and is scheduled to be published in its December issue.

“Our innovation takes advantage of the innate ability of proteins to form into ordered structures and for us to use genetic engineering to change nature’s plans, transforming these structures into something useful,” said Jonathan Trent, principal investigator of a research project to produce ‘nano-electronics’ at NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. A nanometer is roughly 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. “Building structures on the nano scale is an incredible engineering challenge,” he said.

Proteins are the building blocks in all living things. Scientists can use genetic engineering to modify proteins in a wide variety of ways by altering the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) of the genes that contain nature’s recipes for making proteins.

“We took a gene from a single-celled organism, Sulfolobus shibatae, which lives in near-boiling acid mud, and changed the gene to add instructions that describe how to make a protein that sticks to gold or semiconductors,” said Andrew McMillan, a co-investigator at NASA Ames and primary author of the paper. “What is novel in our work is that we designed this protein so that when it self-assembles into a two-dimensional lattice or template, it also is able to capture metal and semiconductor particles at specific locations on the template surface.”

“We cloned, or added, this modified gene segment into a harmless form of E. coli bacteria that rapidly multiplies, producing vast quantities of the new protein,” said Chad Paavola, a project co-investigator, also from NASA Ames. Scientists can grow the E.coli bacteria in a watery broth in vats. The new protein starts out just a few nanometers wide. It self-assembles into an organized lattice, or template.

One reason scientists decided to modify a protein from an organism living at high temperatures is that this protein is robust. Because the genetically engineered protein is more heat-stable than the proteins E. coli naturally makes, scientists can easily purify the new protein by heating the broth containing the bacteria to destroy unwanted natural E. coli proteins. The engineered protein remains intact.

Then scientists crystallize the new protein to form tiny, flat, lattice-like structures that act as nano-templates. These crystalline structures, made of rings about 20 nanometers across, are about 5,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.

“We apply the crystals to a substrate such as a silicon wafer, and we add a gold or semiconductor slurry,” said McMillan. “The tiny particles of gold or semiconductor (cadmium selenide/zinc sulfide) stick to the lattices.” According to McMillan, the minute pieces that adhere to the protein lattice are ‘quantum dots’ that are about one to 10 nanometers across. Today’s standard computer chips have features that are roughly 130 nanometers apart.

“After further development, an array of nanoparticles could serve as computer memory, a sensor or as a logic device that could calculate,” said McMillan.

“Much of the success of today’s electronics industry comes from knowing how to arrange materials in an organized fashion on a silicon substrate, and the prospects of using proteins to improve that process on a nanometer scale is encouraging,” Trent added.

“There are several other interesting applications for these protein nano structures,” said Meyya Meyyappan, director of the Center for Nanotechnology at NASA Ames. “For example, you can use them for biomedical applications.”

“We have demonstrated the feasibility of using genetically engineered proteins to manipulate and arrange materials on a nanometer scale,” Trent said. “Our ultimate goal is to prove that we can use proteins to build devices that will be of value to NASA in the search for life beyond Earth.”

Technical information about the new process can be found on the World Wide Web at:

http://ipt.arc.nasa.gov/trent.html and http://ipt.arc.nasa.gov/mcmillan.html

Publication-size images are available at:

http://amesnews.arc.nasa.gov/releases/2002/02images/bionano/bionano.html

High quality audio files suitable for radio broadcast are available at this URL:

http://amesnews.arc.nasa.gov/audio/bionanosound/bionanosounds.html


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Ames Research Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Ames Research Center. "NASA Breakthrough Method May Lead To Smaller Electronics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 November 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/11/021126072435.htm>.
NASA/Ames Research Center. (2002, November 26). NASA Breakthrough Method May Lead To Smaller Electronics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/11/021126072435.htm
NASA/Ames Research Center. "NASA Breakthrough Method May Lead To Smaller Electronics." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/11/021126072435.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) Qantas and Virgin say passengers can use their smartphones and tablets throughout flights after a regulator relaxed a ban on electronic devices during take-off and landing. As Hayley Platt reports the move comes as the two domestic rivals are expected to post annual net losses later this week. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 26, 2014) Huge waves generated by Hurricane Marie hit the Southern California coast. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) Chinese researchers have expanded on Cold War-era tech and are closer to building a submarine that could reach the speed of sound. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) An acute coal shortage is likely to be aggravated as India's supreme court declared government coal allocations illegal, says Breakingviews' Peter Thal Larsen. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins