Faster and smaller electronic devices, as well as enhanced fibre optics, are a step closer thanks to new research by scientists at the University of Melbourne and New York University.

Researchers have turned previously one-dimensional nanomaterials into two dimensions using DNA “origami”.

The novel breakthrough was published in the latest issue of Nature Nanotechnology,

“We can now take linear nano-materials and direct how they are organised in two dimensions, using a DNA origami platform to create any number of shapes,” explains NYU Chemistry Professor Nadrian Seeman, the paper’s lead author, who founded and developed the field of DNA nanotechnology three decades ago.

Australian collaborator, Associate Professor Sally Gras from the Melbourne School of Engineering said, “We brought together two of life’s building blocks, DNA and protein, in an exciting new way, growing protein fibres within a DNA origami structure.”

DNA origami uses approximately two hundred short DNA strands to direct longer strands in forming specific shapes. In their work, the scientists sought to create and then manipulate the shape of amyloid fibrils—rods of aggregated proteins or peptides that match the strength of spider’s silk.

“Fibrils are remarkably strong and, as such, are a good barometer for this method’s ability to form two-dimensional structures,” said Professor Seeman. “If we can manipulate the orientations of fibrils, we can do the same with other linear materials in the future.”

Professor Seeman points to the promise of creating two-dimensional shapes on the nanoscale.

“If we can make smaller and stronger materials in electronics and photonics, we have the potential to improve consumer products,” Seeman says. “When components are smaller, it means the signals they transmit don’t need to go as far, which increases their operating speed. That’s why small is so exciting—you can make better structures on the tiniest chemical scales.”

Researchers from Bio21 Institute also collaborated on this work.