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Prof. Ben Feringa in Nature Nanotechnology: Control of complex nanosystems a step closer

23 August 2011

We are a step closer to solving one of the most important scientific challenges issued by Science in 2005. The Groningen chemist Prof. Ben Feringa and his team have succeeded in assembling a nano system and then disassembling it using light. Control of this principle is important for targeted administration of drugs, among other things. A publication in Nature Nanotechnology has been online since 14 August.

Self-assembly is at the heart of the construction of systems in nature, such as cells. Replicating such a complex system is an enormous scientific challenge. Advances in this field, such as the one now made by Feringa and colleagues, offer perspectives for many applications, including controlled drug delivery, smart materials and biohybrid systems.

Control of nanotubes and nanocapsules

The researchers have succeeded in assembling and disassembling a selected nanotube by influencing the photoswitchable fluorescent core of its building blocks with light. They could also make the capsule remove and reattach itself to the nanotube without this affecting the tube. This is an important step in the direction of more complex assembled systems on a nanoscale.

Scientific challenge

In 2005, Science published 25 major challenges in science. One of them was ‘How far can we push self-assembly?’ This spring, The Dutch Scientific Agenda [De Nederlandse Wetenschapsagenda] of the KNAW also listed self-assembly as one of the greatest scientific challenges. The Nature Nanotechnology article by Feringa and colleagues has answered part of this comprehensive question.

For more information:
Prof. Ben Feringa (Jacobus H. van 't Hoff chair in organic chemistry)

To read the article, go to

This research was partly sponsored by the NWO Spinoza Prize awarded to Feringa in 2004.

Last modified:04 January 2018 4.30 p.m.
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