Protein-aided nanofabrication: merging biology and nanotechnology
François Baneyx, University of Washington
Nanotechnology is an interdisciplinary field that explores and exploits the unique phenomena occurring at the atomic, molecular and supramolecular scales to create materials, devices and systems exhibiting unique properties and functions. With applications ranging from medical diagnostics and therapy to energy, electronic and manufacturing materials, this foundational technology holds the promise of transforming nearly every aspect of our lives. Nanoscale systems may be built using “top-down” techniques (e.g., by electron beam, photo- and soft lithography) or through “bottom-up” approaches. Nature has long excelled at the latter and achieves its feats of engineering by relying on peptide and proteins to nucleate, transport and assemble inorganic materials. While there much to learn – and more to be amazed – from the tools and strategies that Nature has evolved to build complex hierarchical materials such as mollusk shells, diatom walls and hard tissues, accessing compositions and architectures of engineering interest is crucial to the development of the next generation of hybrid functional materials. Molecular biomimetics is a fledgling field that blends biology, chemistry, material sciences and engineering. Its central premise is that solid-binding peptides, either in isolation or when inserted within the structural framework of proteins displaying desirable characteristics, can be used as molecular erector sets to direct materials synthesis with control of composition and topology, and therefore function. This presentation will highlight the basic tenets of the molecular biomimetic approach and provide examples of the power of co-opting biology for nanofabrication.
Sarikaya, M., C. Tamerler, A.K.-Y. Jen, K. Schulten and F. Baneyx. 2003. "Molecular biomimetics: nanotechnology through biology". Nat. Mater. 2:57-585