Scientists Use DNA Scaffolding To Build Tiny Circuit Boards

Aug 18, 2009
IBM scientists are using DNA origami to build tiny circuit boards; in this image, low concentrations of triangular DNA origami are binding to wide lines on a lithographically patterned surface. Image: IBM

(PhysOrg.com) -- Today, scientists at IBM Research and the California Institute of Technology announced a scientific advancement that could be a major breakthrough in enabling the semiconductor industry to pack more power and speed into tiny computer chips, while making them more energy efficient and less expensive to manufacture.

IBM researchers and collaborator Paul W.K. Rothemund, of the California Institute of Technology, have made an advancement in combining lithographic patterning with self assembly - a method to arrange DNA origami structures on surfaces compatible with today’s equipment.

Today, the semiconductor industry is faced with the challenges of developing lithographic technology for feature sizes smaller than 22 nm and exploring new classes of transistors that employ carbon nanotubes or silicon nanowires. IBM’s approach of using DNA molecules as scaffolding -- where millions of carbon nanotubes could be deposited and self-assembled into precise patterns by sticking to the DNA molecules - may provide a way to reach sub-22 nm lithography.

IBM scientists are using DNA scaffoldingi to build tiny circuit boards; this image shows high concentrations of triangular DNA origami binding to wide lines on a lithographically patterned surface; the inset shows individual origami structures at high resolution. Image: IBM

The utility of this approach lies in the fact that the positioned DNA nanostructures can serve as scaffolds, or miniature circuit boards, for the precise assembly of components - such as carbon nanotubes, nanowires and nanoparticles - at dimensions significantly smaller than possible with conventional semiconductor fabrication techniques. This opens up the possibility of creating functional devices that can be integrated into larger structures, as well as enabling studies of arrays of nanostructures with known coordinates.

“The cost involved in shrinking features to improve performance is a limiting factor in keeping pace with Moore’s Law and a concern across the semiconductor industry,” said Spike Narayan, manager, Science & Technology, IBM Research - Almaden. “The combination of this directed with today’s fabrication technology eventually could lead to substantial savings in the most expensive and challenging part of the chip-making process.”

The techniques for preparing DNA origami, developed at Caltech, cause single DNA molecules to self assemble in solution via a reaction between a long single strand of viral DNA and a mixture of different short synthetic oligonucleotide strands. These short segments act as staples - effectively folding the viral DNA into the desired 2D shape through complementary base pair binding. The short staples can be modified to provide attachment sites for nanoscale components at resolutions (separation between sites) as small as 6 nanometers (nm). In this way, DNA nanostructures such as squares, triangles and stars can be prepared with dimensions of 100 - 150 nm on an edge and a thickness of the width of the DNA double helix.

IBM scientists are using DNA scaffolding to build tiny circuit boards; in this image, individual triangular DNA origami are adhering to a template with properly sized triangular features. Image: IBM

The lithographic templates were fabricated at IBM using traditional semiconductor techniques, the same used to make the chips found in today's computers, to etch out patterns. Either electron beam or optical were used to create arrays of binding sites of the proper size and shape to match those of individual origami structures. Key to the process were the discovery of the template material and deposition conditions to afford high selectivity so that origami binds only to the patterns of "sticky patches" and nowhere else.

The paper on this work, “Placement and orientation of DNA nanostructures on lithographically patterned surfaces,” by scientists at IBM Research and the California Institute of Technology, will be published in the September issue of Nature Nanotechnology and is currently available at: www.nature.com/nnano/journal/v… /nnano.2009.220.html .

Provided by IBM

Explore further: Researchers improve thermal conductivity of common plastic by adding graphene coating

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

DNA used as a template for nanolithography

Aug 31, 2007

DNA is one of the most popular building blocks of nanotechnology and is commonly used to construct ordered nanoscale structures with controlled architectures. For the most part, DNA is looked upon as a promising building ...

AMD, Partners Produce Test Chip Using EUV Lithography

Feb 26, 2008

AMD, working together with its research partner, IBM, announced it has produced a working test chip utilizing Extreme Ultra-Violet (EUV) lithography for the critical first layer of metal connections across the entire chip. ...

IBM builds first IC around a single carbon nanotube

Mar 24, 2006

IBM today announced that its researchers have built the first complete electronic integrated circuit around a single “carbon nanotube” molecule, a new material that shows promise for providing enhanced ...

For low-cost DNA nanostructures, recycle sticky ends

Mar 02, 2007

Scientists from Duke University have recently demonstrated a new method for assembling large, low-cost DNA nanostructures, in part by reusing the “sticky-ends,” the broken DNA strands used to connect the ...

Researchers Build World's Smallest SRAM Memory Cell

Aug 18, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- IBM and its development partners -- AMD, Freescale, STMicroelectronics, Toshiba and the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) -- today announced the first working static random access memory ...

Recommended for you

Gold nanoparticle chains confine light to the nanoscale

Oct 29, 2014

A multidisciplinary team at the Centre d'Elaboration de Matériaux et d'Etudes Structurales (CEMES, CNRS), working in collaboration with physicists in Singapore and chemists in Bristol (UK), have shown that ...

Self-assembly of layered membranes

Oct 28, 2014

Techniques for creating complex nanostructured materials through self-assembly of molecules have grown increasingly sophisticated. But carrying these techniques to the biological realm has been problematic. ...

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

sender
not rated yet Aug 18, 2009
photocomputing via DNA within the decade to do one time snapshot sequencing of life's building blocks?
guiding_light
not rated yet Aug 18, 2009
These don't look very robust as etch masks.
Ant
not rated yet Aug 18, 2009
There is greater probability that this work will produce working products than a quantum computer research ever will
gongii
not rated yet Aug 20, 2009
This may be a silly question but whose DNA is it? I never heard of "generic" DNA, doesn't DNA always code for some biological function if not some organism?

The research is valuable for its architectural concept; it would be nice to demonstrate it on some other substance besides DNA, like another helical molecule. DNA is very fashionable but could get legal very quickly.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.