A Caltech Library Service

Using lateral capillary forces to compute by self-assembly

Rothemund, Paul W. K. (2000) Using lateral capillary forces to compute by self-assembly. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 97 (3). pp. 984-989. ISSN 0027-8424.

See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Investigations of DNA computing have highlighted a fundamental connection between self-assembly (SA) and computation: in principle, any computation can be performed by a suitable self-assembling system. In practice, exploration of this connection is limited by our ability to control the geometry and specificity of binding interactions. Recently, a system has been developed that uses surface tension to assemble plastic tiles according to shape complementarity and likeness of wetting [Bowden, N., Terfort, A., Carbeck, J. & Whitesides, G. M. (1997) Science 276, 233-235]. Here the capacity of this system to compute by SA is explored. Tiles were prepared to test the system's ability to generate three structures of increasing complexity: a periodic checkerboard tiling, an aperiodic Penrose tiling, and a computational tiling that simulates a one-dimensional cellular automaton. Matching rules for these tilings were enforced by coating tiles with patterns of hydrophobic and hydrophilic patches or wetting codes. Energetic, kinetic, and mechanistic details of SA explain differences between experimental structures and mathematically ideal ones. In particular, the growth mechanism observed appears incompatible with computations that make use of a chosen input.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Additional Information:Copyright © 2000 by the National Academy of Sciences Edited by George M. Whitesides, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, and approved December 13, 1999 (received for review September 21, 1999) I thank L. Adleman, E. Winfree, R. Lee, N. Seeman, N. Chelyapov, D. Fygenson, R. Mills, K. Casciotti, K. Bui, J. Lyons, and L. Bennett of Laser Connection, Arcadia, CA, and Flag's Photo of Pasadena, CA. This work was supported by grants from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Sloan Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Office of Naval Research, and the National Science Foundation. This paper was submitted directly (Track II) to the PNAS office.
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:ROTpnas00
Persistent URL:
Alternative URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:5993
Deposited By: Archive Administrator
Deposited On:10 Nov 2006
Last Modified:14 Nov 2014 19:19

Repository Staff Only: item control page