Skip to main content

CBES: Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science

Transmutable Nanoparticles with Reconfigurable Surface Ligands

Scientific Achievement

Development of nanoconstructs with bonding behaviors that can be dynamically modulated in response to specific chemical stimuli.



Transmutable nanoparticles can be selectively activated and deactivated and then used to generate discrete forms of complex crystalline matter.

Significance and Impact

Inspired by pluripotent stem cells, entities capable of differentiating into various biological tissues, we introduce the concept of a transmutable nanoparticle — a building block with different possible binding characteristics that can be selectively activated and deactivated, and access different thermodynamic states (crystalline structures).

Research Details

  • DNA hairpin ligands, which undergo conformational changes upon binding of effector oligonucleotides, alter the bonding properties of the nanoparticles to which they are anchored.
  • Type of bonding (recognition sequence), effective stoichiometry of particles, density of bonds, and size of transmutable particles are studied.


Transmutable Nanoparticles with Reconfigurable Surface Ligands
Kim, Y., Macfarlane, R.J., Jones, M.R., Mirkin, C.A.
Science 351, 2016, 579-582.

Work performed at Northwestern University