Scientists looking for efficient ways to make microscopic machines and faster electronics are turning to self-assembly in hopes of putting things together with something like natures' ease.
Self-assembly is a critical aspect of nanotechnology because using tools to manipulate objects in the realm of molecules is incredibly difficult and nowhere near cost-effective. Self-assembly is also poised to enable faster electronics when current chip manufacturing processes reach their limits.
Researchers are tapping biological materials like DNA, organic molecules like polymers, and inorganic molecules like gold nanoparticles to find ways ways to make materials self-assemble into specific shapes, sizes and orientations. Initial efforts have produced particles, wires, rings, tubes, containers, patterned surfaces and patterned materials that automatically assemble molecule-by-molecule.
The technology is likely to play an increasingly important role in areas like photonics, data storage, drug delivery and biochemical sensors.
The report includes an executive summary, a list of 17 developments to look for as these cutting-edge technologies take shape, and a section of 24 researchers to watch, including links to their Web pages. It also includes a quick tour of 39 recent developments in six areas and a section of 28 in-depth news stories.
-Making things make themselves
-Microscopic machines and faster electronics
-Materials, means and ends
-The laws of physics
-Design as process
-The stuff of life
-Blueprint and building material
-Getting down to the basics
-Catching a bug — and putting it to work
-Better building through organic chemistry
-Natures building blocks — one at a time
-Order and growth
-Sowing crystals seeds
-An organizing principle
-Delivering on the nanotech promise
-Self-assembling the far future