The most basic building block of a Mattershift Molecular Factory is the Programmable Molecular Gateway. It consists of a carbon nanotube fixed within a flexible polymer sheet and aligned so that both of its ends are open

MG_no gate.png

The gateways are called "programmable" because a great variety of gates can be added to their openings, allowing them to manipulate molecules in specific ways

One example is a NEMS gate, which is a gateway with a Nano Electro Mechanical System (NEMS) attached. It's similar to a Micro Electro Mechanical System (MEMS), like the kind used to create accelerometers in smartphones, for example, but NEMS are much smaller. The one shown above is a gate that can be opened and closed by sending an electrical signal through the nanotube to which it's attached

Another example is a catalyst gate. This is a gateway with a catalyst attached to the opening of the nanotube. All molecules passing through the gateway must interact with the catalyst, which may be active or passive, removing or adding electrons, combining or splitting molecular parts

Protein gates may be used to allow only specific molecules to pass through the gateways, like therapeutically useful antibodies, ions, or anything else protein channels may select for. Protein gates consisting of enzymes may also be used for highly specific catalysis of reactions, like those involved in molecular assembly. Use of a series of enzyme gates can be used for “Beyond-Cell” biological processes, sometimes also referred to as “Cell-Free”

A large number of gateways may be embedded in inexpensive polymer supports to transform and transport molecules. A typical density of gateways is 250 Trillion per square meter

A great many types of gates are possible, and many have already been demonstrated in laboratories around the world

By creating a series of gateway types that perform different functions -- purification, catalysis, separation, concentration, further reactions, and so on, complex chemical synthesis can be achieved in compact, inexpensive devices

Good analogies for how molecular factories can be designed are found in information processing and synthetic biology. In both disciplines, simple individual operations are combined to form more complex operations, resulting in information processing or living factories

 Symbols for unit operations for information processing and synthetic biology (“Biobricks”)

Symbols for unit operations for information processing and synthetic biology (“Biobricks”)

In a similar way, a number of different types of molecular gateways can be combined to design molecular processing operations

 Mattershift Molecular Gateway Operations

Mattershift Molecular Gateway Operations

 Molecular Factory for conversion of CO2 to fuels

Molecular Factory for conversion of CO2 to fuels

Above is an example of a simplified schematic for converting atmospheric carbon dioxide, water, and solar or wind electricity into ethanol, gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel

The discovery of carbon nanotubes in 1991 led scientists to develop hundreds of "functionalizations" for nanotube openings. Most of these can be useful as molecular gates

The key innovation at Mattershift has been to create an inexpensive and scalable platform for this library of gates. With the ability to deploy Programmable Molecular Gateways at scale, we believe practical molecular factories are now possible


Take a deep dive into the scientific literature and popular articles on the subjects of molecular factories on our links page