PerspectiveMaterials Science

Self-Assembly Enters the Design Era

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Science  14 Oct 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6053, pp. 183-184
DOI: 10.1126/science.1213070

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Nanotechnology holds the key to the discovery of materials with the electronic, optical, mechanical, or transport properties required to overcome many of today's technological challenges. The past two decades have seen impressive progress in the synthesis of nanoparticles with astonishing properties (1). Bringing the potential of nanotechnology to reality requires an in-depth understanding of how to precisely assemble nanoparticles into structures and/or phases over multiple length scales, but this has proven enormously difficult to accomplish. Assembling nanoparticles into periodic structures, for example, has only been achieved for a handful of systems under very specific conditions (2). On page 204 of this issue, Macfarlane et al. (3) show that the use of single-stranded DNA as linkers provides a general strategy to program the self-assembly of almost any nanoparticle into a wide range of different periodic structures and do so with an exquisite control over their properties.