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New molecular robot can be programmed to follow instructions

Date:
March 9, 2011
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
Scientists have developed a programmable "molecular robot" -- a sub-microscopic molecular machine made of synthetic DNA that moves between track locations separated by 6nm. The robot, a short strand of DNA, follows instructions programmed into a set of fuel molecules determining its destination, for example, to turn left or right at a junction in the track. The report represents a step toward futuristic nanomachines and nanofactories.

Scientists have developed a programmable "molecular robot" -- a sub-microscopic molecular machine made of synthetic DNA that moves between track locations separated by 6nm. The robot, a short strand of DNA, follows instructions programmed into a set of fuel molecules determining its destination, for example, to turn left or right at a junction in the track. The report, which represents a step toward futuristic nanomachines and nanofactories, appears in ACS's Nano Letters.

Andrew Turberfield and colleagues point out that other scientists have developed similar DNA-based robots, which move autonomously. Some of these use a biped design and move by alternately attaching and detaching themselves from anchor points along the DNA track, foot over foot, when fuel is added. Scientists would like to program DNA robots to autonomously walk in different directions to move in a programmable pattern, a key to harnessing their potential as cargo-carrying molecular machines.

The scientists describe an advance toward this goal -- a robot that can be programmed to choose among different branches of a molecular track, rather than just move in a straight line. The key to this specialized movement is a so-called "fuel hairpin," a molecule that serves as both a chemical energy source for propelling the robot along the track and as a routing instruction. The instructions tell the robot which point is should move to next, allowing the selection between the left or right branches of a junction in the track, precisely controlling the route of the robot -- which could potentially allow the transport of pharmaceuticals or other materials.

The authors acknowledged funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Richard A. Muscat, Jonathan Bath, Andrew J. Turberfield. A Programmable Molecular Robot. Nano Letters, 2011; 110128131625007 DOI: 10.1021/nl1037165

Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "New molecular robot can be programmed to follow instructions." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110309113036.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2011, March 9). New molecular robot can be programmed to follow instructions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110309113036.htm
American Chemical Society. "New molecular robot can be programmed to follow instructions." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110309113036.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

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