DNA origami mechanisms, Advances in Reconfigurable Mechanisms and Robots, Springer 2012

DNA Origami Mechanisms and Machines

DNA origami mechanisms, Advances in Reconfigurable Mechanisms and Robots, Springer 2012

DNA origami mechanisms from Advances in Reconfigurable Mechanisms and Robots, Springer 2012

Professors Carlos Castro and Haijun Su have developed what they call DNA Origami Machines and Mechanisms to pave the way for new small scale devices that could revolutionize medicine, manufacturing, and environmental sensing.

DNA Mechanisms made from links of relatively rigid dsDNA bundles joined by soft ssDNA strands have the potential to provide machines for molecular transport in bioreactors, targeting cancer cells for drug delivery, or even repairing damaged tissue.

Protein is an attractive material for machine construction because there is a huge range of naturally occurring protein-based molecular machinery, but it has been difficult to control proteins structures due to the multitude of complex amino acid interactions that govern protein folding. DNA, however, self-assembles by base pairing and base stacking interactions, natural processes that these researchers essentially “plug in to” to create, manipulate, and “tune” compliant structures. This has led to research on how to use DNA in machine design.

The recent development of scaffolded DNA origami has enabled the construction of nanoscale objects with unprecedented 3D structural complexity by self-assembly. To quote Professor Su’s paper, “We … locally bend bundles of double-stranded DNA into bent geometries whose curvature and mechanical properties can be tuned by controlling the length of ssDNA strands.” This demonstrates a mechanical model that predicts both their geometry and mechanical properties.

As Professor Su states, they are working to “provide a basis for the design of mechanically functional DNA origami devices and materials.” DNA origami mechanisms open an interesting frontier in machine design at the nano level. It is a continuance of mechanical progress that has been a part of engineering for centuries with a potential that until now has been merely the subject of science fiction.


DNA Origami Compliant Nanostructures with Tunable Mechanical Properties: Lifeng Zhou, Alexander E. Marras, Hai-Jun Su, and Carlos E. Castro, Dec. 18, 2010

Design and Fabrication of DNA Origami Mechanisms and Machines, Haijun-Su, Carlos Ernesto Castro, Alexander Edison Marras, Michael Hudoba; Advances in Reconfigurable Mechanisms and Robots, 2012, pp. 487-500


MechGen FG App Makes Design Calculations Easy

The MechGen iPad App helps you design a link that connects an input crank to the coordinated rotation of an output crank. Locate the two cranks and define their input and output angles and let MechGen FG design linkages for you. The design data and an animation of your linkage is easily distributed by email.

The use of linkages for calculation dates back to Charles Babbage’s “difference machine” from the mid 19th century. One hundred years later, Svoboda designed mechanical computers to direct artillery by fitting the input-output properties of linkages to a desired function.  In 1954, Freudenstein used the newly developed digital computer to find a simple linkage that computed complex functions. This introduced computer-aided design by numerical solution of polynomial synthesis equations derived from linkage loop equations.

Today the design algorithms for six and eight bar function generators push the limits of computational ability.

MechGen FG helps the designer because it repeatedly makes routine calculations that would otherwise be very difficult, and it creates many candidate designs, which is where computational power comes into play.

mechgen design problem-trashcan-lid

An example design that the MechGen app will solve for you is that of a trashcan lid connected by a link to a foot pedal designed to open it. You want the lid to open 100 degrees so that it creates a large opening for you to put trash in it without the lid getting in the way of the entrance (because that is an annoying thing for people to deal with and this is a concern with this product) and being over 90 degrees will allow it to rest or stay open instead of falling back down and closing, but you also don’t want a person to have to move the pedal over too big a distance; you want the pedal to only move 20 degrees so it’s easy for a person to do.

This is a nice design problem.  How do you get a lid to swing 100 degrees when you move a pedal 20 degrees?  Well, you can start with the MechGen FG App.

Find out more on iTunes. This app is a collaboration of Kaustubh Sonawale and Jeffrey Glabe.