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Protein Nanotechnology
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C4 Streptavidin Complex

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C5 Symmetry

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C6 Symmetry

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D2 Symmetry

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D3 Symmetry

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D4 Symmetry

Why Protein-Based Nanotechnology?

The key impediment to the practical realization of nanotechnology is the lack of a suitably flexible and scalable manufacturing process for nano-scale devices. In the context of engineered nanostructures, there are two different aspects of scalability.

The first aspect of scalability involves the ability to manufacture structures using a parallel manufacturing process. Imiplex technology is designed to exploit the unique self-assembly properties of protein molecules to address the fundamental issue of parallel assembly. Proteins, which are polymers of amino acids, spontaneously fold to form uniquely organized, tightly packed structures that self-organize thousands of atoms with atomic precision over ranges of 1 to 100 nm, and manifest a wide range of structural, catalytic, binding, and signal transduction properties. Over
100,000 protein structures are known at the atomic level, including many multimers (at left) with symmetrical geometry that lends itself to the assembly of extended structures using molecular linkage chemistry. Many living organisms exist in extreme environments, so that their proteins have naturally evolved to maintain structural stability at elevated temperatures. Proteins can be engineered to bind to surfaces with a defined orientation, a characteristic that is important in processes such as active filtration, directional transport of chemical substances, or charge storage on surfaces. The rich functionally of proteins physically arises from near equivalence of several different types of interaction forces (e.g. electrostatic, van der Waals interaction, and solvation effects) and the corresponding effects of statistical energy fluctuations on the order of a few kT that dominate the behavior of biological systems on the molecular scale.

By engineering surfaces on which a defined set of reactive atoms are precisely positioned, and then using these sites for the specific attachment of self-assembled proteins, the possibility exists to create protein-based nanostructures of arbitrary complexity. This combination of top-down and bottom-up self assembly consequently offers the possibility of solving the basic problem of fabrication scalability for nanostructures.

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Nucleated Self-Assembly

A second aspect of scalability applies to the use of nanostructures for intrinsically large-scale applications. Examples include water purification or desalinization, which might utilize active membrane structures organized on the nanostructural level, but would have to be manufactured at large scale to provide useful capacity. In this respect it is estimated that engineered proteins may ultimately be produced for a few dollars a pound, potentially making large scale applications economically feasible propositions.

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