Research Article

A self-assembled nanoscale robotic arm controlled by electric fields

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Science  19 Jan 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6373, pp. 296-301
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao4284

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Electrically driving a DNA arm

Most nanoelectromechanical systems are formed by etching inorganic materials such as silicon. Kopperger et al. improved the precision of such machines by synthesizing a 25-nm-long arm defined by a DNA six-helix bundle connected to a 55 nm-by-55 nm DNA origami plate via flexible single-stranded scaffold crossovers (see the Perspective by Hogberg). When placed in a cross-shaped electrophoretic chamber, the arms could be driven at angular frequencies of up to 25 Hz and positioned to within 2.5 nm. The arm could be used to transport fluorophores and inorganic nanoparticles.

Science, this issue p. 296; see also p. 279

Abstract

The use of dynamic, self-assembled DNA nanostructures in the context of nanorobotics requires fast and reliable actuation mechanisms. We therefore created a 55-nanometer–by–55-nanometer DNA-based molecular platform with an integrated robotic arm of length 25 nanometers, which can be extended to more than 400 nanometers and actuated with externally applied electrical fields. Precise, computer-controlled switching of the arm between arbitrary positions on the platform can be achieved within milliseconds, as demonstrated with single-pair Förster resonance energy transfer experiments and fluorescence microscopy. The arm can be used for electrically driven transport of molecules or nanoparticles over tens of nanometers, which is useful for the control of photonic and plasmonic processes. Application of piconewton forces by the robot arm is demonstrated in force-induced DNA duplex melting experiments.

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