A Nanotechnology Primer
Polypeptide Nanowire Design Study
Ray Salemme & Zelda Wasserman
Nanotechnology: What is It?
Although the term is often misapplied, or used in an ambiguous context, nanotechnology refers to materials or devices that have structural features on the nanometer scale. One nanometer (nm) is 1x10-9 meters. This is the scale of molecules that are connected together with chemical bonds that are typically on the order of 0.1 to 0.2 nm in length.
Why is Nanotechnology Useful?
Emergence of New Properties: There is considerable interest in exploiting the emergence of new properties that uniquely occur in very small systems for the development of new kinds of functional devices. Novel properties can range from effects that reflect unique statistical or quantum characteristics that can emerge in very small systems, to novel physical phenomena that result from the interaction of electromagnetic radiation with structures having dimensions less than the wavelength of light (~300-500 nm).
Interface with Biological System: One of the most exciting applications for nanotechnology involves the development of materials or nanodevices that can directly interact with biological systems or incorporate biological macromolecules as intrinsic structural or functional components. Virtually all of the functionality and interaction specificity of biological systems is manifest in the structure of macromolecules structurally organized at the nanoscale. It is the near equivalence of non-covalent molecular interactions with the energy of thermal fluctuations at ambient temperature that endow biological systems with their unique properties of self organization and catalytic functionality. Predominant classes of macromolecules include both proteins and nucleic acids. While nucleic acids are primarily involved in information storage and readout, proteins provide the structural, functional, and biochemical machinery of living systems. Proteins have evolved a huge diversity of structure and function, all the result of precision self-assembly at the nanoscale.
Imiplex is focused on nanotechnology development using engineered proteins as modular assembly components. Proteins offer unique advantages through the availability of a huge collection of known functional structures, ease of modification using recombinant DNA technology, and scalable production through heterologous gene expression.