A schematic showing how DNA can be programmed, folded into material voxels, and then assembled into a 3D architecture.

Programmable Nanoscale Assembly

One of the fundamental problems in bottom-up assembly of nanomaterials is difficulty creating arbitrary designed architectures from functionally relevant nanoscale blocks. This problem limits how we build targeted materials, integrate nanoscale blocks and manufacture nanoscale devices.

Our efforts address this challenge by establishing methods for digital bottom-up assembly using programmable processes. We use nucleic acids as nanomaterials that can be addressed and prescribed in order to build complex multiscale organizations from inorganic and bio-organic nano-components. We employ programmable molecular interfacing, soft matter effects and inverse design principles for controlling desired equilibrium and out-equilibrium systems' states. The effort aims to establish practical and broadly applicable by-design material fabrication platforms based on digitizing self-organization processes.

​Engineered Nanoscale Biomaterials

Novel approaches are required for generating new biologically and chemically active biomaterials. For example, it is advantageous to establish methods for organizing proteins into designed 2D and 3D arrays, which remains a challenge for traditional protein crystallization. The capability to design controllable protein supramolecular structures can allow accumulation of a wealth of information (e.g., structure, genetics, function) onto a single structure, leading to a broad spectrum of application in nanotechnology, biomimetics and nanomedicine.

An image showing various schematics of an octahedron constructed of DNA. One is a digital reconstruction, one is a schematic showing how contents are loaded into the octahedron. One highlights the binding sites in the octahedron, and the last shows how the octahedrons can be connected to form a 3D lattice.

We are developing methods for building complex nanoscale blocks that integrate DNA, proteins and enzymes for engineering functions, and exploring them in applications for bio-imaging, drug and gene delivery. We use these designed building bio-nano blocks for creating large-scale biomaterial systems with catalytic, sensing, and system regulation functions.

A schematic, image, and graph. The schematic shows an octahedron with two gold nanoparticles attached on the top and bottom, with a quantum dot loaded in the center. The image is a single-molecule fluorescence image showing the organization of the octahedrons. The graph displays quantum dot emission under different polarization angles.

​Self-Assembled Optical Nanomaterials

Architectured nanoparticle systems with light emitting and light absorbing nanoscale components, such as plasmonic nanoparticles and quantum dots, offer novel optical properties due to the collective effects. However, in order to realize tunable optical responses from such hetero-nanoparticle systems, well-defined nano-architectures with targeted nanoparticle arrangements have to be fabricated.

We investigate how to translate our programmable assembly methods for creating static and dynamic optical architectures with prescribed positions of optically active nano-components. We exploit such structures for creating novel materials that can manipulate light in the desired ways, process information, sense signals, and reconfigure as directed.