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September 15, 2003 | Many companies are trying to use nanotechnology to create better biomedical research and diagnostic devices. One company, DuPont, is attempting the opposite –  to use biology to improve nanotechology.

Much of the leading edge work in microelectronics is aimed at reducing feature sizes on chips. “We’re talking about nanometer-size features,” says Timothy Gierke, research manager at DuPont Central Research & Development. “The bio world deals with that dimension all the time.”

Today, it takes special equipment to manipulate and assemble nano-sized electronic components. DuPont is exploring ways to use the force between strands of binding DNA to move small components into place.

Another area Gierke’s group is investigating is the manipulation of carbon nanotubes, which have been targeted for use in everything from airplane structures to conductive elements within clothes for soldiers.

Although about 50 companies make carbon nanotubes today, no one has a way to efficiently mass-produce, cut, and sort the tubes. Within any batch of tubes there is a wide range of properties and sorting by conductive properties, for example, is extremely difficult.

DuPont has developed a technique where a strand of DNA is wrapped around each tube in a batch. Different DNA strands bind to tubes with different characteristics and sorting is done using the properties of the DNA. – SS.

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