Back in 2001, Swedish researchers developed techniques for creating complex two- and three-dimensional networks of nanotubes and micrometer-sized containers from liquid crystalline lipid bilayer materials based on the propensity in liposomes to undergo complex shape-transitions under mechanical excitations. The membrane composition and container contents can be controlled allowing chemical programming of networks in studies of enzyme kinetics, reaction-diffusion phenomena, and single-biomolecule detection. Materials contained in the networks can be routed among containers. Thus, networks of nanotubes and vesicles serve as a platform to build nanofluidic devices operating with single molecules and particles and offer new opportunities to study chemistry in confined biomimetic compartments. The networks can furthermore be used to build nanoscale chemical laboratories for applications in analytical devices as well as to construct computational and complex sensor systems that can also be integrated to living cells. In recent work, the researchers have now demonstrated that these nanotube-container networks can be constructed directly from plasma membranes of cultured cells.
Sophisticated biomolecular motors have evolved in nature, where motor proteins actively control the delivery and assembly of materials within cells. In contrast, the development of synthetic nanomotors is in its infancy. Such nanomotors are currently explored for an increasing number of applications in hybrid bionanodevices. Along these lines, gliding motility assays, where reconstituted microtubule filaments are propelled over a substrate by surface-attached motor proteins, have been used to transport micro- and nanosized objects, such as small beads, quantum dots or DNA molecules. However, one prerequisite for controllable nanotransport is the reliable guiding of filament movement along predefined paths, a challenging task that has recently been achieved only via costly and labor-intensive topographical surface modifications. Researchers have now demonstrated a novel approach for the nanostructuring of surfaces with functional motor proteins. In contrast to all other current methods, their approach allows the three-dimensionally oriented deposition of proteins on surfaces, being the result of first binding them to the highly oriented and regulated structures of microtubules and then transferring them to the surface.
DNA computing is a form of computing which uses DNA and molecular biology instead of the traditional silicon-based computer technologies. Molecular computation is currently focused on building molecular networks analogous to electrical engineering designs. These networks consist of logic gates, which perform Boolean logical operations such as AND, NOT, and OR on one or more inputs to produce an output. While individual molecular gates and small networks have previously been constructed, these gates are yet to be integrated at higher levels of complexity. Such integration in electrical engineering arises from massive parallelism and interconnections, rather than fundamental component complexity. The ability to truly integrate molecular components remains crucial for the construction of next-generation molecular devices. Researchers have now succeeded in building a medium- scale integrated molecular circuit, integrating 128 deoxyribozyme-based logic gates, 32 input DNA molecules, and 8 two-channel fluorescent outputs across 8 wells.
In the field of Nanotechnology, where inherent risks are the subject of hot debate, developments within the nascent science of biomolecular motors is hailed by scientists to be relatively benign to humans and possibly beneficial to the environment (even for applications within the military). Biomolecular motors are currently an area of fundamental research, with working applications years in the future. Biological organisms on the micro and nano scales have always used the mechanism of converting ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate - the universal fuel molecule that powers all cells) into mechanical energy. Therefore an existence proof that this concept could fare very well has existed for millennia. Today's question is: "how to manufacture engineering devices powered by ATP?"
New research findings substantially improve the yields in the fabrication of devices with molecular monolayers active channels and significantly reduce the density of defects caused by metal penetration.