A cargo-sorting DNA robot
Lulu Qian, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering, Caltech
Two critical challenges in the design and synthesis of molecular robots are modularity and algorithm simplicity. We demonstrate three modular building blocks for a DNA robot that performs cargo sorting at the molecular level. A simple algorithm encoding recognition between cargos and their destinations allows for a simple robot design, a single-stranded DNA molecule with one leg and two foot domains for walking, and one arm and one hand domain for picking up and dropping off cargos. The robot explores a two-dimensional testing ground on the surface of DNA origami, picks up multiple cargos of two types that are initially at unordered locations and delivers them to specified destinations, until all molecules are sorted into two distinct piles. The robot is designed to perform a random walk without any energy supply. Exploiting this feature, a single robot can repeatedly sort multiple cargos. Localization on DNA origami allows for distinct cargo-sorting tasks to take place simultaneously in one test tube, or for multiple robots to collectively perform the same task.