As it turns out, DNA molecules are approximately as big as the graphene nanoribbons that researchers are trying to create, and they also carry carbon atoms, which are the only constituent of graphene. This gave Stanford researcher Zhenan Bao and colleagues the idea to use DNA to help them assemble graphene nanoribbons.
Using a known technique, the researchers first "combed" the DNA strands into relatively straight lines. They then exposed them to a solution of copper salt, which resulted in copper ions being absorbed into the DNA itself.
The DNA was then heated and surrounded in methane gas. The heat freed carbon atoms from both the DNA and the methane, and through a chemical reaction the carbon atoms quickly and orderly assembled to form graphene ribbons that followed the structure of DNA.
After succeeding in the experiment, the team took things a step further and actually used the technique to manufacture working graphene transistors.
While the assembly process still needs to be refined (the carbon atoms sometimes bunch up together instead of forming in a clean one-atom-thick sheet), this work is truly paving the way toward a highly scalable, cheap and precise way to manufacture graphene electronics
Eoin Treacy's view Materials
science represents a significant growth industry as the promise of nanotechnology
increasingly reaches commercial utility. Graphene and carbon nanotubes might
be described as the cutting edge of innovation but to the best of my knowledge
there are no pure plays on these sectors just yet.
Nonetheless, major chemical and industrial companies have been working for years to develop new materials, products and techniques and have the resources to either invent or buy new technologies. (Also see Comment of the Day on February 12th for a review of this sector.)