Coordination polymer approach to DNA functionalisation and assembly

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Oxford Physics

Abstract

Biological self-assembly, whereby molecules organise themselves into well-defined functional architectures and hierarchical systems, has inspired new approaches to materials synthesis and device fabrication. These, so-called, bottom-up methods offer the possibility of lower cost, smaller size and increased functionality and complexity. Among the most successful of these methods are those based on DNA, biology's information carrier. DNAs robust nature, reliable synthesis, controllable length scale, combined with the deep understanding of the genetic code's structure-building rules address many of the criteria desired of a materials design toolkit. However, the native biopolymer lacks a range of interesting physico-chemical properties; its electronic system is relatively quiescent. To overcome this various strategies have been developed. Most widely adopted are the incorporation of pre-synthesized components such as nanoparticles, chemical modification, or deposition of metals and inorganic materials directly onto the DNA to form electrical wires, for example.

In this proposal we will explore a new molecular-based approach for preparing functionalized DNA-based materials and self-assembled molecular architectures that also offers a possible route to a simple DNA-based electronics. This approach will use modified DNA components, thionucleosides, that have different metal-binding properties compared to those of the native biopolymer. These thionucleosides can assemble metal ions into extended chains forming, so-called, coordination polymers which have useful optoelectronic properties, including electrical conductivity. Using this approach, the project aims to pioneer a new type of material that combines these functional coordination polymers with DNA. These metal-based polymers can introduce, at once, luminescence, semiconductivity and distinct chiral optical properties. Furthermore, they establish thermally-stable linkages into the parts of the structure, introduce addressable electrically-conducting regions into the molecular architecture and also sites of potential new reactivity.

By allowing the incorporation of new properties via this novel route new types of construction protocol, compositional architectures and combinations of material properties will be possible. As a result the project will advance the field of bottom-up molecular design, specifically DNA-based materials, towards increased functionality and so expand the available toolkit for future developments.

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