Self-assembling electronics

Rational top-down engineering enabled powerful electronic devices, but their lithographic fabrication is expensive and limited in precision. In contrast, Nature has evolved mechanisms to self-assemble complex functional architectures in a sustainable bottom-up way with atomic precision. Is it possible to develop a new approach to building complex devices that combines the strengths of biomolecular self-assembly and systematic engineering? We are developing new types of nanoscale building blocks that combine information processing capabilities of molecules such as DNA and high-performance materials such as metals and semiconductors. These nanoscale modules can be designed to self-assemble into a variety of plasmonic, photonic, and electronic architectures unattainable with any current nanofabrication techniques.


We cannot simply miniaturize a Roomba robot to clean up plaque in our arteries – the laws of the nanoworld are different from those to which we are accustomed. We are investigating the challenges and opportunities of constructing and programming robots on nanoscale. Nanorobotics holds the potential to transform science, medicine, and engineering. This emerging discipline is positioned to address several emerging society needs, such as disease diagnostics and therapy.


All diseases are molecular in nature, and to fight them we need precise molecular machines. Currently, our therapeutic constructs are either too simple (e.g., small molecule therapeutics) or complex but not sufficiently well understood (e.g., CAR-T cell therapy). We are developing a new toolkit for molecular programming, in which simple building blocks with well-understood behavior can be composed into arbitrarily complex architectures using well-understood algorithms, and using this toolkit to build molecular machines customizable for any challenge in medicine.

Molecular Programming

The principles of computer science have allowed us to create electronic systems with billions of components and software with millions of lines of code to do amazingly complex tasks. Using smart molecules instead of transistors, we seek to develop a new information technology based on chemical systems and principles of molecular programming. These smart molecules consist of digital polymers such as DNA whose sequences can define a rich variety of functions, including folding into a molecular machine, acting as a zip code for nanoscale assembly, or storing and processing information.