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    Nano Creations Assembly
    Viruses can be made to churn out high-tech nanomaterials
    Viruses subvert their hosts to pump out masses of new viruses. In an unusual
    twist, an MIT researcher reports in the May 3 issue of Science that she used
    genetically engineered viruses that are noninfectious to humans to
    mass produce tiny materials for next-generation optical, electronic
    and magnetic devices.–"We’ve been looking at using genetic tools to grow
    semiconductor materials," said author Angela M. Belcher, associate professor of
    materials science and engineering and biological engineering. "In this case, we
    took advantage of the viruses’ genetic makeup and physical shape to
    not only grow the material but also to help them assemble themselves
    into liquid crystal structures that are several centimeters long."–
    Belcher and colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin are interested in using
    the processes by which nature makes materials to design new biological-
    electronic hybrid materials that could be used to assemble electronic
    materials at the nanoscale. Her research brings together inorganic chemistry,
    materials chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology and electrical engineering.
    She will join the MIT Department of Material Science and Engineering and the
    Biological Engineering Division of the School of Engineering in September.–
    Belcher’s approach is to use systems such as viruses that evolved over millions of
    years to work perfectly at the nanoscale, but to convince the viruses to work on
    technologically important materials. Belcher’s research team can evolve
    the viruses to work on the materials of interest over a period of
    months.–Building self-assembling and defect-free two- and three-dimensional
    materials on the nanometer scale is essential for the construction of new devices
    for optics and electronics. Researchers have been looking at ways to use organic
    materials to organize molecules of inorganic materials on the nanoscale.
    Fabricating viral films, Belcher said, may provide new pathways for organizing
    molecules to help create electronic, optical and magnetic materials.