Space Origami Mission


Our goal is to use the new and innovative nanomaterial DNA Origami to create 3D DNA Origami crystals. Why do we need to go into space for this? So far it has not been possible to produce uniform crystals from the new and innovative nanomaterial DNA Origami on Earth. One possible reason could be earth gravity.

Why go to the ISS?

As a reverse conclusion, we know that microgravity has a positive impact on crystal growth. The ISS therefore provides the optimal conditions to build a 3D DNA crystal. Furthermore, we can study the effects of microgravity on a material that has never been to space before. These crystals will make it possible to break new ground in robotics, computer science, materials science, medicine and drug development.

A little bit of history

In a Germany-wide competition prompted by AIRBUS Defence & Space, the most exciting and innovative scientific experiments were sought in order to bring them to the research facility “Space TangoLab” on board the ISS. Our interdisciplinary team of graduate students of the Technical University of Munich, was able to convince the demanding jury of experts and thus win start-up funding for a successful crowdfunding campaign. Joined by our fascination for space travel, we want to send a fully automated crystallization experiment with DNA Origami nanostructures to the International Space Station in 2019.

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What is DNA Origami?

DNA-Origami is a new technique in nanoscience that makes it possible to build self-assembling structures with nanometer precision. The DNA used is not seen as a carrier of genetic information, but as a "bottom-up" building material. The desired structure is composed of many nanometer-sized elements. Three-dimensional objects are folded from DNA single strands. Many different forms, such as an octahedron or a cube, can be realized. This technique has only existed for 12 years, but it is already possible today to build sophisticated functional structures!

The next step will be to extend the material by the nanometer level and to build larger structures. One thinks here of crystal formation, where millions of DNA origami structures make up a large, very stable structure. But building macroscopic 3D DNA origami crystals is an unsolved task so far. Crystals are very regular structures with defined distances, this property can be exploited to produce nanoelectronic components for a DNA computer, for example.

In October 2019 the Space Origami crystallization experiment will be sent to the ISS in a cube, the „ScienceBox“, which has a volume of one litre. The experiment is automatically started without interaction by astronauts. Crystal growth will then begin for at least 30 days. Meanwhile, we can observe the progress of our experiment with built-in cameras.  Our DNA structures are marked marked with fluorescent dyes, so we can analyze the behaviour of the DNA Origami structures, despite their nanometer small size. This enables us to track the progress of our experiment aboard the ISS from earth.


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