The development of a superconductor that can be used anywhere at room temperature, rather than at extremely high or low temperatures as currently possible, could lead to ultra-fast computers, smaller electronics and lower energy consumption.
One possible way to implement physicist William A. Little’s idea of a superconductor is to replace the lattices of carbon nanotubes with hollow cylinders of carbon so small that they can measure in nanometers. But the big challenge has been to control the chemical reactions throughout the nanotubes so that the cage can be assembled exactly as it should and function as intended.
Edward Egelman and his colleagues took the DNA and used it to drive a chemical reaction that allowed Little’s superconductor to break through the huge barrier. They used chemistry for surprisingly precise structural engineering – construction at the level of individual molecules. The result was a lattice of carbon nanotubes that were assembled in such a way that Little’s superconductor would work at room temperature. The researchers say that the lattice they created has not yet been tested for superconductivity, but it is a proof of principle and has great potential for the future.