For researchers at Duke University, a waffle does not just refer to an absolutely amazing thing to eat for breakfast, but in fact represents an innovative structure of DNA strands.
A DNA waffle or a nano waffle is basically a system of DNA strands that are locked together into tiles. When these individual square and cross-shaped tiles are inter-locked together, they resemble a waffle grid.
The great thing about manipulating DNA strands into such a grid is that these sets of tiles can self-assemble into lattices, for example, a template for a precise silver nanowire. A nanowire can be used to connect microscopic objects, to create nanoscale structures. DNA acts an effective template as it other elements can form chemical connections with different positions on a DNA strand. Thus they provide a perfect base for positioning the molecules at exact positions, reducing the level of uncertainty. Hence these kind of DNA structures can be used to hold together a set of molecules, which can self-assemble into pre-programmed configurations.
"The way we've designed these is by changing the sequence of DNA molecules so that they basically tie themselves into knots, and the designs of the knots fit into this sort of pattern." says Chris Dwyer, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering.
Apart from interconnecting microscopic objects, self-assembled DNA structures like DNA waffles can be useful in making various types of new materials with all the desired properties even at the molecular level. Such structures may play a significant part in the development of DNA computers in the coming years.