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Water droplet on top of an amorphous silica slab

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made using VMD

Bionanotechnology involves a marriage of two different materials: inorganic solids, like silica, and biomolecules, like DNA. The new combinations of materials have to be mastered on the laboratory bench as well as in computer simulations. On the bench, devices are manufactured and tested, in the simulations, they are imaged and designed. So far inorganic solids and biomolecules were simulated successfully, but only separately. To join the materials requires as much effort in simulations as on the bench. Even just the interaction of inorganic solids (like silica) with physiological solutions (water and ions) demands challenging descriptions of silica surface properties. As reported recently, researchers have now succeeded in describing accurately the wetting (by water) of amorphous silica, an essential material for nanoelectronics, clearing a major hurdle to simulating bionanotechnological devices, for example, those suggested for rapid and economical sequencing of DNA (see also Nov 2005 and Oct 2004 highlights). More on silica-water interaction here.