Using computer simulations, researchers are able to watch how a random mixture of gold nanoparticles with two different DNA strands as linkers assemble right on their computer screen. The magic starts with just a fraction of the nanoparticles forming a large cluster like a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Within this random cluster, small ordered regions form and eventually lock together into a large uniform array of particles held together with DNA strands. Using computer simulations they also predict previously unseen structures. The computational tools developed for this research can be adapted to a range of other nanoparticles, thus opening up exciting prospects for accelerating material design using DNA to manipulate the structure.
C. Knorowski, S. Burleigh and A. Travesset "Dynamics and Statics of DNA-Programmable Nanoparticle Self-Assembly and Crystallization" Physical Review Letters, 2011, 106, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.106.215501