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Nanotech marches on...

Back to paging through Science News, we go.... :) Once again, we find an interesting use for an existing mechanism.

DNA Strands That Select Nanotubes Are First Step to a Practical 'Quantum Wire'
ScienceDaily (Aug. 4, 2011) — DNA, a molecule famous for storing the genetic blueprints for all living things, can do other things as well. In a new paper, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) describe how tailored single strands of DNA can be used to purify the highly desired "armchair" form of carbon nanotubes. Armchair-form single wall carbon nanotubes are needed to make "quantum wires" for low-loss, long distance electricity transmission and wiring.

molecular model

Wrapped up in their work: this molecular model shows a single-strand DNA molecule (yellow ribbon) coiled around an "armchair" carbon nanotube. (Credit: Roxbury, Jagota/NIST)

Single-wall carbon nanotubes are usually about a nanometer in diameter, but they can be millions of nanometers in length. It's as if you took a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon atoms, arranged in a hexagonal pattern, and curled it into a cylinder, like rolling up a piece of chicken wire. If you've tried the latter, you know that there are many possibilities, depending on how carefully you match up the edges, from neat, perfectly matched rows of hexagons ringing the cylinder, to rows that wrap in spirals at various angles -- "chiralities" in chemist-speak.