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Proteins Used in Nanoscale Templates

Photonics Spectra
Feb 2003
Anne Fischer Lent

The future of electronic and photonic devices will be based on two-dimensional arrays of quantum dots, according to a team of researchers. The scientists, based at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., and Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, have demonstrated the use of synthetic or biological materials to fabricate nanoscale ordered arrays of metal and semiconductor quantum dots. Devices produced from quantum dots may form the foundation of smaller, more efficient electronic and photonic devices.

The researchers discovered that by genetically engineering a protein, it self-assembled into regular double-ring structures known as chaperonins. They now have demonstrated that these chaperonins can direct the organization of metal and semiconductor nanoparticle quantum dots into ordered arrays.

The next step in this hybrid bio/inorganic approach to nanoscale engineering is to wire the arrays into functional devices, such as quantum dot lasers. They also hope to tap into advances in microbial genetics to induce asymmetry within the arrays by engineering specificity for other inorganic materials into the protein sequence.


GLOSSARY
quantum dots
Also known as QDs. Nanocrystals of semiconductor materials that fluoresce when excited by external light sources, primarily in narrow visible and near-infrared regions; they are commonly used as alternatives to organic dyes.  
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