Genetic engineering has been used to overcome a nearly insurmountable barrier in the development of new materials that could revolutionize electronics. This opens up the possibility of life-changing advances such as superfast computers, superconductors with zero electrical resistance, and other breakthroughs that seem like they belong in a science-fiction novel.
DNA, the genetic material that instructs live cells on how to function, was used by the researchers to construct exact lattices of carbon nanotubes, addressing an issue that had perplexed scientists for more than 50 years.
Stanford University scientist William A. Little came up with the idea of employing lattices of carbon nanotubes to create a superconducting material decades ago. This has been a problem for decades, and it seemed difficult to solve even after scientists proved the practicality of his theory. Since since.
UVA biochemist and molecular geneticist Edward H. Egelman and his team employed DNA to direct a chemical reaction that overcame the major obstacle to Little’s superconductor. It’s safe to say that they employed chemistry to build structures as small as individual molecules with astounding precision. In the end, Little’s room-temperature superconductor was built using a carbon nanotube lattice lattice. DNA sequence control of the spacing between neighboring reaction sites, according to Egelman’s findings, “demonstrates that ordered carbon nanotube modification can be done.”
To now, the development of smaller and quicker electronic devices has been slowed by the need for high resistance, which results in heat and wasted energy. With carbon nanotubes, this resistance is eliminated.
Cryo-electron microscopy, or “cryo-EM” to scientists, is led by Engleman. Leticia Beltran, a graduate student in his lab, and he used cryo-EM imaging to accomplish what seemed like an impossible task. As a result, “the cryo-EM approach has significant potential in the field of materials research,” he explained.
Until now, the superconductivity of their lattice has not been proven, but the researchers claim it provides proof of principle and enormous potential for the future. According to Egelman’s past work, which led to his National Academy of Sciences induction, “Cryo-EM has emerged as the primary method for discovering the atomic structures of protein complexes, but it has had a far smaller influence thus far in materials research.”
In particular for physics research, Egelman and colleagues believe their DNA-guided technique to lattice creation could be advantageous. However, it confirms that Little’s room-temperature superconductor can be built. As other recent advances in superconductors combine, the scientists’ work could ultimately revolutionize technology and lead to a future that is far more “Star Trek” in nature.
Because of this, Egelman asserted, “we have shown that the approaches being developed in biology can truly be applied to challenges in physics and engineering. In science, “not being able to foretell where our work will lead” is what makes it so thrilling.
The findings were published in the prestigious science journal Science this week. Zeus A. De los Santos was one of the members of the team, as well as Leticia Beltran, Yinong Li, Tehseen Adel and Jeffrey Fagan. Egelman and Ming Zheng were the other members of the squad.