Self-replication process holds promise for production of new materials: In order to achieve self-replication of the BTX tile arrays, a seed word is needed to catalyze multiple generations of identical arrays. BTX's seed consists of a sequence of seven tiles -- a seven-letter word. To bring about the self-replication process, the seed is placed in a chemical solution, where it assembles complementary tiles to form a "daughter BTX array" -- a complementary word. The daughter array is then separated from the seed by heating the solution to ~ 40 oC. The process is then repeated. The daughter array binds with its complementary tiles to form a "granddaughter array," thus achieving self-replication of the material and of the information in the seed -- and hence reproducing the sequence within the original seed word. Significantly, this process is distinct from the replication processes that occur within the cell, because no biological components, particularly enzymes, are used in its execution -- even the DNA is synthetic.
"This is the first step in the process of creating artificial self-replicating materials of an arbitrary composition," said Paul Chaikin, a professor in NYU's Department of Physics and one of the study's co-authors.