Asimov would have been so proud: New York scientists have created a walking robot, just 10 nanometres long and made out of DNA. Alright, it needs a path made of DNA to walk along, but this is still amazing stuff.
The researchers are taking advantage of DNA chains' propensity to pair up. The legs are made of two strands wrapped together in a double helix, but at the end of each leg, there is a single strand they call a foot. By detatching and reattaching themselves to the footpath, the legs can move along.
The breakthrough has been hailed as a great step forward. Presumably the pun was intended.
In an interview with BBC Online Professor Nadrian Seeman of New York University said: "What we've done is to build a sidewalk to accommodate one step and we've demonstrated quantitatively that [the robot] can take a second step".
Most of the DNA path will not be compatible with the single-stranded foot, so by carefully ordering the sequence of base pairs in the DNA path, they are able to determine where each 'foot' would attach. Another strand tells the foot to let go, allowing the robot to take its step. ®
The full story is in New Scientist here.