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Custom Metal Fabrication Gets Techno-Boost

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

An abundance of innovation is percolating in the corridors of the metal fabrication industry these days, and it’s an exciting time to be wandering among them. A particularly noteworthy example of this arrived this week with the news of a novel method for casting three-dimensional custom-shaped metal nanoparticles using “stiff DNA” as construction moulds.

The research, conducted at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, resulted from an initiative exploring innovative means of producing customized designs and shapes from metal nanoparticles. And it’s meaningful for the fresh approach it bestows upon the ancient world of metal fabrication, courtesy of DNA, long celebrated as “nature’s building block.”

At its core, this complex work sees scientists building tiny foundries of stiff DNA to fabricate metal nanoparticles into specific, predictable 3D shapes whose design and creation are facilitated by computer design software.

The ability to mould inorganic nanoparticles out of metals such as gold and silver into precisely calculated 3D shapes represents a significant advancement in humanity’s ability to control things like the size, symmetry, and shape of the final products—essential to the ultimate goal of their commercialization.

Researchers demonstrated the versatility of the shapes that can be generated using this method with the synthesis of three distinct silver cuboids, all less than 25nm a side.

This discovery, published this month in Science, could have significant ramifications for a range of fields, including the advancement of disease detection, solar cells, electronics, and in devising new ways to manipulate light.

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