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Viral parts: Chemists convert virus into nanoscale tool

Unless they have a cold, most chemists give viruses little thought. That may change now that some researchers are decorating these microbes with a variety of molecules–making the germs into potential building blocks in electronic circuits and new materials, as well as tools in biomedical therapies.

In recent research, scientists used a virus with a diameter of 30 nanometers, an appropriate choice for eventually controlling the synthesis of materials on scales that have been difficult to master, says chemist M.G. Finn of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. We have to do some things to [the virus to] make it perform, but at least the starting point here is just the right size, says Finn.

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