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2008/01/31 03:00 KST
Scientists make 3D nanocrystal structure

   SEOUL, Jan. 31 (Yonhap) -- A team of U.S. and South Korean scientists have developed a three-dimensional nanocrystal structure using deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) strands, a leading international research journal said on Thursday.

   The discovery, which was selected as the cover story of the latest issue of Nature magazine, is noteworthy for using DNA as a blueprint and building tool to allow the self-assembly of very small metal-based material into certain shapes, scientists said.

   DNA holds all genetic codes used in the development and functioning of all living cells, but it has usually been reserved for biotech work. Nanotechnology refers to the research and development of materials that exist on the scale of one-billionth of a meter.

   This emerging field promises to revolutionize everyday lives by expanding the skill of man to make super-small materials and devices.

   The paper listing Park Sung-yong, a South Korean researcher at Rochester University in New York, as the first author, stressed that the discovery could one day allow scientists to design metallic and other inorganic materials into specific shapes to cure disease and make super-fine electronic components and chemical catalysts.

   Scientists who took part in the work, including Park, said their work focused on attaching DNA segments onto nano-sized gold crystals, and using the natural sequencing of the DNA to move and design the nanoparticles into specific shapes.

   They added that in addition to gold particles, experiments are planned for silver and fluorescent materials, which have broader applications, and to make structures such as bars and cubes.

   Chad Mirkin, a professor of chemistry at Northwestern University who played a key role in the work, said that by changing the DNA strands, engineers were able to create a variety of shapes. He added that the DNA strands acted as glue to stabilize the materials created by that process.