DNA, the stuff of life, may very well also pack quite the jolt for engineers trying to advance the development of tiny, low-cost electronic devices. Much like flipping your light switch at home---only on a scale 1,000 times smaller than that of a human hair---an Arizona Statte University (ASU)-led team has now developed the first controllable DNA switch to regulate the flow of electricity within a single, atomic-sized molecule. The new study, led by ASU Biodesign Institute researcher Dr. Nongjian Tao, was published online on February 20, 2017 in Nature Communications. The open-access article is titled “Gate-Controlled Conductance Switching in DNA.” "It has been established that charge transport is possible in DNA, but for a useful device, one wants to be able to turn the charge transport on and off. We achieved this goal by chemically modifying DNA," said Dr. Tao, who directs the Biodesign Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors and is a professor in the Fulton Schools of Engineering. "Not only that, but we can also adapt the modified DNA as a probe to measure reactions at the single-molecule level. This provides a unique way for studying important reactions implicated in disease, or photosynthesis reactions for novel renewable energy applications." Engineers often think of electricity like water, and the research team's new DNA switch acts to control the flow of electrons on and off, just like water coming out of a faucet. Previously, Dr. Tao's research group had made several discoveries to understand and manipulate DNA to more finely tune the flow of electricity through it.
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