In DNA, scientists find solution to build a superconductor that could transform technology


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Scientists at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and their colleagues have used DNA to overcome a nearly insurmountable obstacle to engineer materials that will revolutionize electronics.

One possible result of such engineered materials could be superconductors, which have zero electrical resistance, allowing electrons to flow unhindered. This means that unlike existing means of electrical transmission, they do not lose energy and do not generate heat. Development of a superconductor that can be widely used at room temperature—extremely high or . Instead low temperaturesAs is now possible—could lead to hyper-fast computers, reduce the size of electronic devices, allow high speed trains To float on magnets and reduce energy usage among other benefits.

One such superconductor was first proposed 50 years ago by Stanford physicist William A. Scientists spent decades trying to make it work, but even after validating the feasibility of their idea, they had a challenge that seemed impossible to overcome. So far.

Edward H. Egelman, Ph.D., of UVA’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics. The pioneers in the field of cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), and he and graduate student Leticia Beltran in his lab used cryo-EM imaging for this unlikely project. “This shows,” he said, “that cryo-EM technology has great potential in materials research.”

nuclear engineering

One possible way to realize Little’s idea for a superconductor is to modify the lattice of carbon nanotubes, hollow cylinders of carbon so small that they must be measured in billionths of a nanometer-metre. But there was a bigger challenge: controlling chemical reaction With nanotubes so that the mesh can be assembled exactly as needed and function as intended.

Egelman and his colleagues found an answer in the very building blocks of life. He took the DNA genetic material Which tells living cells how to work, and uses it to direct a chemical reaction that would clear the great barrier for Little’s superconductor. In short, they used chemistry to create surprisingly precise structural engineering—at the level of individual molecules. The result was a lattice of carbon nanotubes assembled as needed for Little’s room-temperature superconductor.

“This work demonstrates that ordered carbon nanotube modification can be achieved by taking advantage of DNA-sequence control over the distance between adjacent reaction sites,” Egelmann said.

The researchers say the lattice they created has not been tested for superconductivity, but it provides proof of principle and has great potential for the future. “While cryo-EM has emerged as the main technique in biology to determine the atomic structures of protein assemblies, it has so far had little impact. materials Science“said Egelman, whose prior work earned him an induction into the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors a scientist can receive.

Egelmann and his colleagues say that their DNA-guided approach to lattice formation could have a wide variety of useful research applications, particularly in physics. But it’s Little’s. also validates the possibility of building room temperature superconductor. The scientists’ work, along with other breakthroughs in superconductors in recent years, could eventually change the technology as we know it and could lead to “Star Trek” in the future.

“While we often think of biology using tools and techniques from physics, our work shows that the approaches being developed in biology can actually be applied to problems in physics and engineering,” says Egelman. he said. “That’s what’s so exciting about science: not being able to predict where our work will lead.”

The researchers have published their findings in the journal science,

Atomic-scale window into superconductivity paves way for new quantum materials

more information:
Zhiwei Lin et al, DNA-guided lattice remodeling of carbon nanotubes, science (2022). DOI: 10.1126/science.abo4628

Citation: In DNA, scientists find solution to build superconductors that could transform technology (2022, Aug 2) on 2 Aug 2022 Obtained from .html.

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