Researchers at MIT and Harvard University found a way to use folded DNA to control the nanostructure of inorganic materials. DNA structures are built in a certain shape, then used as templates to create nanoscale patterns on sheets of graphene. This technique can further large-scale production of graphene electronic chips.
This technique forms DNA nanostructures with precisely planned shapes using short synthetic DNA strands called single-stranded tiles. Each of these tiles acts as an interlocking brick and binds with four designated neighbors. The researchers transferred the structural information encoded in DNA to graphene, using a relatively simple process that includes anchoring the DNA onto a graphene surface using a molecule called aminopyrine, which is similar in structure to graphene. The DNA is then coated with small clusters of silver along the surface, which allows a subsequent layer of gold to be deposited on top of the silver.
Once the molecule is coated in gold, the stable DNA can be used as a mask for a process called plasma lithography to wear away any unprotected graphene, leaving behind a graphene structure identical to the original DNA shape. The metallized DNA is then washed away with sodium cyanide.
Scientists are examining different shapes, like ribbons and rings, for their energetic properties (bandgaps, for instance), for the purpose of making various digital electronic components and electronic circuits.
In September 2013, Stanford researchers developed a new way to produce graphene ribbons using DNA strands, and set out to make GNR-based transistors using their methos.