McGill University researchers have chemically imprinted polymer particles with DNA strands – a technique that could lead to new materials for applications ranging from biomedicine to the promising field of « soft robotics. »
In a study published in Nature Chemistry, the researchers describe a method to create asymmetrical polymer particles that bind together in a spatially defined manner, the way that atoms come together to make molecules.
Although polymers are used in everything from clothing and food packaging to 3D printing and electronics, most self-assembled polymer structures have been limited to symmetrical forms such as spherical or cylindrical shapes. Recently, however, scientists have focused on creating non-symmetrical polymer structures—for example ‘Janus’ particles with two different ‘faces’—and they are starting to discover exciting new applications for these materials. One example: robotics made with soft, flexible structures that can change shape in response to external stimuli.