Non-technical: This award by the Biomaterials Program in the Division of Materials Research to Arizona State University will use DNA nanostructures to study how quasi-crystals form. Quasi-crystals are structures that exhibit long-range order but are not periodic. In 2011 the Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to a scientist who discovered a type of crystal so unique that it completely changed the way that we view solid matter. That the discovery of quasi-crystals has led to a paradigm shift in material science is an understatement. Most crystals are precise three dimensional arrangements of atoms that repeat infinitely in a very ordered way. However, quasi-crystals are unlike other crystals; they have perfectly ordered infinite patterns that never repeat. As a result of their unique arrangement, quasicrystalline materials have special properties that have found use in everyday objects such as turbine blades, non-stick frying pans, and surgical instruments and LED lights. This grant supports research to construct self-assembled quasi-crystal materials from DNA nanostructures. The PIs will use DNA nanostructures to study how quasicrystals form, and how their structure leads to unique and useful properties and behavior. This information will ultimately be used to create new and useful biomaterials for a variety of applications. This research will have societal implications beyond the obvious value to basic scientific discovery - it will create opportunities to engage undergraduate, graduate, and underrepresented minority students to participate in cutting edge research and innovation.
This grant supports research to construct self-assembling quasi-crystal materials using rationally designed DNA nanostructures. Quasi-crystals are structures that exhibit long-range order but are not periodic. Despite the unique and potentially useful properties that are likely to emerge, after three decades of research very little is known about synthetic and naturally occurring quasicrystals or the mechanism of their formation. The creation of artificial DNA quasi-crystals will enable the discovery of the quasi-crystal growth mechanisms, and provide a novel platform to organize functional materials that display unique properties and collective behavior. This platform will allow the PIs to reach a level of structural complexity that does not exist in nature, thus creating unprecedented opportunities for engineering novel biomaterials. This project will create new cutting edge research opportunities for undergraduate, graduate, and underrepresented minority students and present summer research opportunities for local high school students and teachers through full-scale online mass-mentorship in mathematics, science, engineering and technology.