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Synthesizing the biochemical and semiconductor worlds: the future of nucleic acid nanotechnology



Jacob Majikes, James Alexander Liddle


There are few phrases truer for technological soothsaying than "fools rush in where angels fear to tread." Prediction is particularly difficult in the case of Nucleic Acid Nanotechnology (NAN) because of its unique mix of top-down design with bottom-up assembly. However, for technologies to develop fruitfully, a robust dialogue is needed, provoked by the competition between bold, if imperfect, visions. Unfortunately, the only recourse is to think carefully, step into the breach, present a vision, and hope to be on the side of the angels. This is our intent. We predict that NAN will revolutionize nanofabrication, but not by replacing any current workflows in either top-down semiconductor fabrication or protein engineering. Instead, it will create a new class of composite nanostructures by integrating a variety of electronic and biochemical capabilities, while providing rudimentary edge computation in the chemical domain. This prediction has major implications for NAN research. For example, pursuit of integrated circuit fabrication via DNA self-assembly will be shown to be economically fruitless. Other high-interest research topics, such as DNA data storage, may reside on the edge of commercial viability; plausibly able to capture niche markets. In common with previous surveys of the field1–3, we believe that products such as super-resolution rulers4,5 and in situ biosensors6,7, will continue to satisfy small research markets, while complex nucleic acid therapeutics8 will soon address larger, as-yet unmet needs. In the future, NAN will find industrial applications through its singular ability to integrate numerous, heterogenous functional elements and to perform chemical logic, as enabled by DNA computation research9. Thus, NAN will connect semiconductor devices and biomacromolecular systems. If this is the case, any call-to-action to implement NAN must necessarily include the following: design - to handle multi-level conceptual hierarchies purification - to mitigate thermodynamic limits on yield yield verification/metrology - to optimize pre-production and manufacturing quality control We will first provide context for this prediction, describe how NAN has built momentum, elucidate its principal strengths and weaknesses, highlight initial market entry points, and present our prediction in depth before concluding.


DNA nanotechnology, DNA origami, self-assembly


Majikes, J. and Liddle, J. (2022), Synthesizing the biochemical and semiconductor worlds: the future of nucleic acid nanotechnology, Nanoscale, [online],, (Accessed May 18, 2024)


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Created October 13, 2022, Updated December 12, 2022