Reconfigurable Matter from Programmable Atom Equivalents

Project: Research project

Project Details


We propose to use a bio-inspired approach to assemble a diverse set of nanoparticle building blocks into reconfigurable, structurally sophisticated, and highly functional colloidal crystals. In particular, nanoparticles densely functionalized with DNA, or other nucleic acids of interest, will be used as programmable atom equivalents (PAEs), where specifically designed sequences are used as “bonds” to connect nanoparticles and to “encode” physical structure. Groundbreaking discoveries in the Mirkin group over the last decade with PAEs, enabled by AFOSR-funded research, have established a vast new phase space of previously inaccessible nanoparticle-based materials and, in so doing, demonstrated the extraordinary structural control afforded by our nucleic acid-mediated approach to nanoparticle crystallization. In a collaborative basic research effort, we will expand on this unprecedented degree of structural control through the creation of a new class of functional and reconfigurable PAE-based crystals. Specifically, we will synthesize and investigate new types of structurally sophisticated architectures that feature the dynamic interactions and responsiveness characteristic of most natural materials. These novel materials are expected to exhibit emergent physical properties that can be tuned on-demand and would not be possible to synthesize using any other known technique. In addition to leading to new materials important to the Air Force for high-performance structural, optical, magnetic and electronic applications, this research will contribute significantly to advancing many areas of fundamental science. The proposed research is organized under four primary experimental objectives, all of which represent important aspects of developing reconfigurable and sophisticated crystals. In brief, these objectives are to: 1) synthesize and characterize new functional nanoparticle building blocks; 2) develop novel methods to incorporate dynamic responsiveness into reconfigurable superlattices and single crystals; 3) leverage new nanoparticle building blocks to synthesize and investigate symmetry-broken, structurally sophisticated superlattices with emergent properties; and 4) assemble functional superlattices on surfaces. In order to achieve these objectives, we have assembled a multidisciplinary team that includes experts in synthesis, assembly, characterization, and simulations. Our team will be led by Prof. Chad Mirkin, a world-renowned expert in nanomaterials synthesis, nanoscale patterning, biomolecular assembly, and nanoassembly characterization. Prof. Vinayak Dravid has pioneered the use of advanced characterization techniques for nanoparticles and surfaces. Prof. Koray Aydin is an expert in metamaterial properties and has extensive experience in modeling and encoding information into such nanoscale structures. Prof. David Harris is an expert in magnetism and an emerging leader in metal-organic framework synthesis and characterization. All members of the team have had highly successful prior collaborations
Effective start/end date8/15/178/14/22


  • Air Force Office of Scientific Research (FA9550-17-1-0348 P00004)


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