Research Groups


The world's smallest wedding rings

6th April 2011

Creating artificial structures from DNA is the objective of DNA nanotechnology. This new discipline makes use of the ability of natural DNA strains to self-assemble. As reported by FMLS scientist Alexander Heckel and his PhD student Thorsten Schmidt in today's online issue of Nano Letters, they now succeeded in creating two rings of DNA only 18 nanometers in size and to interlock them like two links in a chain. Such a structure is called catenan, a term derived from the Latin word catena (chain). Schmidt, who got married during the time he was working on the nano-rings, believes that they are probably the world's smallest wedding rings.

From a scientific perspective, the structure is a milestone in the field of DNA nanotechnology, since the two rings of the catenan are not fixed, but can rotate freely under certain conditions. They are therefore suitable as components of molecular machines or of a molecular motor. "We still have a long way to go before DNA structures such as the catenan can be used in everyday items", says Alexander Heckel, "but in the near future structures of DNA can be used to arrange and study proteins or other molecules that are too small for a direct manipulation." This way, DNA nano-architectures could become a versatile tool for the nanometer world, to which access is difficult. Link to full article, to German or English press release.