Biological systems correct errors using non-equilibrium driving forces applied in seemingly futile cycles, increasing ground state occupancy beyond that allowed at thermal equilibrium. Such ‘proofreading’ mechanisms have rarely been exploited in the synthetic reactions of materials science.
In this talk, I will present general design principles and the energy-speed-accuracy tradeoffs inherent to such mechanisms and uncover a new proofreading regime with large savings in energy at a small cost in accuracy. I will also show how non-equilibrium error correction can enhance specificity in binding interactions and molecular recognition in biological and synthetic systems. Such an understanding of the fundamental principles underlying error correction, generalizing beyond particular enzymatic realizations, enables implementation in synthetic systems, e.g., to improve fidelity in DNA hybridization reactions used in diagnostic devices or to reduce errors in the self-assembly of nanoscale structures.