William A. Goddard III, Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics, and colleagues including Postdoctoral Scholar Si-ping Han have been awarded a $2 million grant as part of the National Science Foundation’s Origami Design for Integration of Self-assembling Systems for Engineering Innovation program. The funds will be used to develop biomimetic materials which contain assembled complexes of molecules that self-replicate, evolve and adopt intricate three dimensional structures at the nanometer scale by combining DNA guided self-assembly with origami folding.
The project has deep intellectual connections to the contributions of other Caltech scientists including Paul Rothemund who invented scaffolded DNA origami, a highly versatile way to weave long DNA strands into nano sized geometric building blocks with complex shapes and patterns. Goddard and colleagues now seek to build rich varieties of functional 3D materials by assembling Rothemund type components into large arrays that are then capable of reproduction, evolution and origami folding. To provide geometric intuition and design inspirations, a sculptor will advise the project team, and will build macroscopic physical models of the nanoscopic structures under investigation. Once developed these self-replicating, self-evolving materials may have applications ranging from environmental cleanup to human therapy. [Learn More]