To engineer a new generation of nanomaterials that control and direct the energy absorbed from light, University of Toronto researchers have derived inspiration from the photosynthetic apparatus in plants.
Professors Shana Kelley and Ted Sargent have reported the construction of what they term ‘artificial molecules’.
“Nanotechnologists have for many years been captivated by quantum dots – particles of semiconductor that can absorb and emit light efficiently, and at custom-chosen wavelengths,” explained Kelley, a Professor at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, the Department of Biochemistry in the Faculty of Medicine, and the Department of Chemistry in the Faculty of Arts and Science.
“What the community has lacked – until now – is a strategy to build higher-order structures, or complexes, out of multiple different types of quantum dots. This discovery fills that gap,” she added.
The team combined its expertise in DNA and in semiconductors to invent a generalized strategy to bind certain classes of nanoparticles to one another.
“The credit for this remarkable result actually goes to DNA: its high degree of specificity – its willingness to bind only to a complementary sequence – enabled us to build rationally-engineered, designer structures out of nanomaterials,” said Sargent, a Professor in The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto, who is also the Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology.
“The amazing thing is that our antennas built themselves – we coated different classes of nanoparticles with selected sequences of DNA, combined the different families in one beaker, and nature took its course. The result is a beautiful new set of self-assembled materials with exciting properties,” he added.
The study is detailed in the Nature Nanotechnology.