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Assembly Solutions

photo - researcher holds vial of clear liquidPhoto: Rob Felt

Scientists are using the programmability of DNA to assemble complex, nanometer-scale structures. Until now, however, production of these artificial structures had been limited to water-based environments, because DNA naturally functions inside the watery environment of living cells.

Georgia Tech researchers have now shown they can assemble DNA nanostructures in a solvent containing no water. They also discovered that adding a small amount of H2O to their solvent increases the assembly rate and provides a new means for controlling the process. The solvent, a mixture of glycerol and choline chloride, may also facilitate the production of more complex DNA structures by improving the assembly process.

“DNA nanotechnology structures are getting more and more complex, and this solvent could help researchers that are working in this growing field,” said Nicholas Hud, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “We can also take the structures that were assembled in this solvent mixed with water, remove the water by applying vacuum, and have the DNA structures remain intact in the water-free solvent.”

The research could open up new applications for DNA nanotechnology and help apply DNA technology to the fabrication of nanoscale semiconductor and plasmonic structures. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation and NASA, the research was reported in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.— JOHN TOON

photo - Nick Hud

Nicholas Hud is a professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Georgia Tech, and director of the NSF/ NASA Center for Chemical Evolution, which is supported by the NSF Centers for Chemical Innovation Program and the NASA Astrobiology Program.


DNA nanotechnology is the design and manufacture of artificial nucleic acid structures for technological uses. Instead of carrying genetic information for living organisms, these nucleic acids are used as engineering materials.

Georgia Tech is home to more than 2,500 faculty members who conduct scientific and engineering research in hundreds of different research areas.

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John Toon

John Toon

Director of Research News
Phone: 404.894.6986

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Research News
Phone: 404-435-5784

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