Since it works with samples close to a thousand times smaller than comparable commercial instruments, the new technique should be an important addition to the growing arsenal of measurement tools for nanotechnology, according to the NIST team.
As the objects of scientific research have gotten smaller and smaller—as in nanotechnology and gene therapy—the people who worry about how to measure these things have been applying considerable ingenuity to develop comparable instrumentation.* This new NIST technique is a riff on thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), an imposing name for a fairly straightforward concept. A sample of material is heated, very slowly and carefully, and changes in its mass are measured as the temperature increases. The technique measures the reaction energy needed to decompose, oxidize, dehydrate, or otherwise chemically change the sample with heat.
TGA can be used, for example, to characterize complex biofuel mixtures because the various components vaporize at different temperatures. The purity of an organic sample can be tested by the shape of a TGA plot because, again, different components will break down or vaporize at different temperatures. Conventional TGA, however, requires samples of several milligrams or more of material, which makes it hard to measure very small, laboratory-scale powder samples—such as nanoparticles—or very small surface chemistry features such as thin films.
What's needed is an extremely sensitive "microbalance" to measure the minute changes in mass. The NIST group found one in the quartz crystal microbalance, essentially a small piezoelectric disk of quartz sandwiched between two electrodes. An alternating current across the electrodes causes the crystal to vibrate at a stable and precise ultrasonic frequency—the same principle as a quartz crystal watch. Added mass (a microsample) lowers the resonant frequency, which climbs back up as the microsample is heated and breaks down.
In a new paper.** the NIST materials science group demonstrates that their microbalance TGA produces essentially the same results as a conventional TGA instrument, but with samples about a thousand times smaller. They can detect not only the characteristic curves for carbon black, aluminum oxide and a sample organic fluid, but also the more complex curves of mixtures.
"We started this work because we wanted to analyze the purity of small carbon nanotube samples," explains analytical chemist Elisabeth Mansfield. More recently, she says, they've applied the technique to measuring the organic surface coatings biologists put on gold nanoparticles to modify them for particular applications. "Measuring how much material coats the particles surface is very hard to do right now," she says, "It will be a really unique application for this technique."
The prototype apparatus requires that the frequency measurements be made in a separate step from the heating. Currently, the team is at work integrating the microbalance disks with a heating element to enable the process to be simultaneous.
* See, for example, "Micro Rheometer is Latest Lab On a Chip Device" in NIST Tech Beat, Aug. 31, 2010, www.nist.gov/public_affairs/tech-beat/tb20100831.cfm#rheometer.
** E. Mansfield, A. Kar, T.P. Quinn and S.A. Hooker. Quartz crystal microbalances for microscale thermogravimetric analysis. Anal. Chem. Article ASAP, published online Nov. 16, 2010. DOI: 10.1021/ac102030z
Michael Baum | EurekAlert!
20.11.2017 | Washington University in St. Louis
Carefully crafted light pulses control neuron activity
20.11.2017 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences
20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences
20.11.2017 | Life Sciences