A crew led by Cornell University physics professors Itai Cohen and Paul McEuen is utilizing the binding power of magnets to design self-assembling techniques that probably can be created in nanoscale from.
To make small methods—such as miniature machines, gels and metamaterials—that basically build themselves, the researchers took motivation from DNA origami, in which atomic-scale DNA strands could be folded into two- and three-dimensional structures by a process called complementary base pairing, where specific nucleotides connect to each other: A to T and G to C.
Rather than counting on atomic bonds, the group was drawn to another type of attraction: magnetics. Here, the attraction and repulsion between several magnets can serve as a quite intelligent connection, like a handshake. Magnetic interactions further make for strong, versatile bonds that are not quickly interrupted by thermal effects. With a big enough order of magnets in a variety of orientations, thousands of various configurations can be possible.
The researchers checked their design theory by making centimeter-sized acrylic panels, each having four tiny magnets in a square pattern. This association allowed them to create four unique magnetic interactions.
To initiate the self-assembly, the separate strands were distributed on a shaker table, with the desk’s fluctuations preventing the magnets from forming bonds. As the shaking amplitude was reduced, the magnets connected in their designated order and the coasts formed the target structures.
The ultimate objective, says Cohen, is to produce nanoscale versions of those systems, with self-assembling items that are merely a hundred nanometers in diameter, or a thousandth of a human hair in diameter.