This one's for the real Hawk, nanotechnology... : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Researchers From Lucent Technologies' Bell Labs and University of Oxford Create First DNA Motors

MURRAY HILL, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 9, 2000--Scientists from Bell Labs, the research and development arm of Lucent Technologies (NYSE: LU), and the University of Oxford have created the first DNA motors. The devices, which resemble motorized tweezers, are 100,000 times smaller than the head of a pin, and the techniques used to make them may lead to computers that are 1,000 times more powerful than today's machines.

The DNA motor research, described in the August 10 issue of the British journal Nature, is part of a burgeoning field known as nanotechnology, where dimensions are on a nanometer scale - a billionth of a meter. Scientists believe nanoscale devices may lead to computer chips with billions of transistors, instead of millions - which is the typical range in today's semiconductor technology. The more transistors crammed on chip, the more powerful it is.

"This technology has the potential to replace existing manufacturing methods for integrated circuits, which may reach their practical limits within the next decade when Moore's Law eventually hits a brick wall," said physicist Bernard Yurke of Bell Labs.

DNA, which provides the molecular blueprints for all living cells, is an ideal tool for making nanoscale devices. "We took advantage of how pieces of DNA - with its billions of possible variations - lock together in only one particular way, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle," Yurke said.

The researchers designed pieces of synthetic DNA that would recognize each other during each step of making the DNA motors. As a result, the only necessary ingredients in a laboratory test tube were DNA itself.

"Because DNA acts as the 'fuel' for these motors, they are completely self-sufficient and do not require other chemicals to operate, " Yurke said.

The self-assembling aspect of the DNA motors also is crucial for manufacturing nanodevices. "Given the size scale, no other approach appears to be practical," Yurke said. "This may lead to a test-tube based nanofabrication technology that assembles complex structures, such as electronic circuits, through the orderly addition of molecules."

While DNA typically exists in a double-stranded form - similar to a twisted ladder -- the researchers began with three single strands, each resembling a ladder sliced down the middle. Strand A has the correct DNA sequence to latch onto half of strand B and half of strand C, and so joins them all together. Strand A also has a hinge section between the parts that bind to B and C, so that the two "arms" -- AB and AC -- can move freely.

On its own, the DNA structure floats with its arms wide open. The arms are pulled shut by adding a DNA fuel strand, which is designed to attach to the dangling, unpaired sections of strands B and C. To re-open the tweezers, the fuel strand is removed by adding another strand with the right DNA sequence to pair up with it.

"The entire population of 30 trillion DNA tweezers in a few drops of solution can be repeatedly closed and opened by successively adding fuel and removal strands," said Andrew Turberfield, a physicist at the University of Oxford, who spent a recent sabbatical year at Bell Labs. Other scientists participating in the research were physicist Allen Mills and post-doctoral fellow Friedrich Simmel of Bell Labs and Jennifer Neumann, a graduate student at Rutgers University.

Because the DNA motors are too small to be observed with available microscopic techniques, the researchers relied on the phenomenon of fluorescence to detect the closing and opening actions. A pair of dye molecules was attached to the ends of the DNA motors, and when laser light "excited" the dyes, the amount of fluorescent light indicated the distance between the two ends.

Yurke said he was inspired to devise DNA motors when he realized molecular-scale protein motors in living organisms are responsible for muscular contraction and moving substances around in cells.

The Bell Labs scientists are already working to attach DNA to electrically conducting molecules to assemble rudimentary molecular-scale electronic circuits.

Bell Labs is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. One of the most innovative R&D entities in the world, Bell Labs has generated more than 40,000 inventions since 1925. It has played a pivotal role in inventing or perfecting key communications technologies for most of the 20th century, including transistors, digital networking and signal processing, lasers and fiber-optic communications systems, communications satellites, cellular telephony, electronic switching of calls, touch-tone dialing, and modems.

Today, Bell Labs continues to draw some of the best scientific minds. With more than 30,000 employees located in 25 countries, it is the largest R&D organization in the world dedicated to communications and the world's leading source of new communications technologies. In a recent report, Technology Review magazine said Bell Labs patents had the greatest impact on telecommunications for 1999.

Lucent Technologies, headquartered in Murray Hill, N.J., U.S.A., designs and delivers the systems, software, silicon and services for next-generation communications networks for service providers and enterprises. Backed by the research and development of Bell Labs, Lucent focuses on high-growth areas such as optical and wireless networks; Internet infrastructure; communications software; communications semiconductors and optoelectronics; Web-based enterprise solutions that link private and public networks; and professional network design and consulting services. For more information on Lucent Technologies and Bell Labs, visit the company's Web site at or the Bell Labs Web site at

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-- Not now, not like this (, August 09, 2000


Very cool. Bit by bit these things are being developed. I wonder when it will all come together with the first working nano Assembler?

-- Jim Morris (, August 09, 2000.

Thanks 0110, the stuff these guys think of is awesome! But at the same time, it's also a bit scary. Hope Bell Labs doesn't do work for the gubmint, this kind of brainpower in the wrong hands could be dangerous! Amazing article.

-- (invisible.airborne@genetic.weaponry), August 09, 2000.

This reminds me of Paula@Chowbabe. Sleuthing for food prices disguised by a pair of Christmas earrings. Finding out that her sleeping bag wasn't warm enough when she lost the heat in her mobile home. And, always posting about nanotechnology and how it would change the world as we know it. She was wrong about Y2K, but I think she was right about nanotechnology.

-- (, August 09, 2000.

I think the implication of Nanotech are amazing! I'm glad we're working on it. This could solve a lot of the world's problems. There are so many things these people can do. In (magazine) you can do a search on Eric Drexler, there is a fascinating article on the speech he gave in front of Congress, regarding Nanotech, some years ago, about the bucky ball and the bucky tube and C60 (Carbon 60).

Invisible: You and I both know the gumbmit ;-) *will* get their grubby little hands on this. But can it do harm? I'm sure if it can they will figure out a way.

Jim: Soon now, with any luck!


-- Not now, not like this (, August 10, 2000.

Yes, nanatechnology is a wunnerful, wunnerful idea. For too long nanas have been relegated to knitting afghans, crocheting doilies and playing canasta. Never again! NANAPOWER!

-- Nana Millie (smilies@cookiesN.milk), August 10, 2000.

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