Friday, May 27, 2005


Biology meets Molecular Electronics

It has long been the intention of serious nanotechnology researchers to call inspiration, not from the macro world we inhabit, but from the world of cellular biology. This process has lead to many of the great breakthroughs in Nanotechnology over the last few years for example molecular motors based on ATP-synthase. The role of biology in Nanotechnology is the central theme of Richard Jones Soft Machines book and is discussed in depth in his own weblog.

But now the world of biology is encroaching into the field of molecular electronics, a branch of nanotechnology that had previously been teh domain of physicists and organic chemists. Bob Willett and colleagues at Bell Labs have measured how different amino acids adhere to the various types of materials that are used to make electronic devices (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. to be published). The Bell Labs team then went on to design an inorganic nanostructure that was capable of selectively binding to a particular sequence of amino acids.

"Our results demonstrate a surprisingly large range of adhesion interactions," says Willett. "The adhesion maps are an empirical tool for attempting to understand certain molecular interactions with inorganic surface states and, perhaps more importantly, provide an empirical guide for building nanostructures that are hybrids of peptide-based materials and inorganics."

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