Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A new mass sensor to weight atoms with an unprecedented resolution

28.10.2008
A group of researchers led by Adrian Bachtold of the CIN2 laboratory in Spain has developed an ultrasensitive mass sensor, which can measure tiny amounts of mass with atomic precision, and with an unprecedented resolution to date.

The CIN2 (Research Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology), is a joint centre belonging to the Spanish National Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) and the Nanotechnology Catalonian Institute (ICN).

The device is based on a carbon nanotube of 1 nanometer diameter which is clamped at both ends to two electrodes. It works as an electromechanical resonator characterized by a mechanical resonance frequency as if it was a string on a guitar. When atoms are directed towards the nanotube, they hit and stick to its surface. This increases the nanotube mass, thereby reducing its resonance frequency: this slowing of the vibration is used to quantify the mass of the atoms.

At room temperature, the nanotube resonator has a resolution of 25 zeptograms (zg) but cooling the nanotube down to 5 Kelvin (268.15 degrees C below zero) the resolution improves to 1.4 zeptograms. A zeptogram equals 10 -21 grams or, which is the same, a thousandth part of one millionth of one millionth of one millionth of a gram.

A sensor of this resolution would allow the detection of tiny amounts of mass such as the mass of proteins or other molecules with atomic resolution. Also, it could be used to monitor nuclear reactions in individual atoms, or biological molecules in chemical reactions.

The researchers tested the device by measuring the mass of evaporated chromium atoms, and the performance, as explained in an article published in the journal Nanoletters, is exceptional. The other members of the team are Benjamin Lassagne and Daniel Garcia, both of CIN2, and Albert Aguasca, from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya.

A remaining challenge

One of the challenges of nanotechnology and nanomechanics is having a mass spectrometer working at subatomic level. The maximum resolution had been achieved with some silicon resonators (with a resolution of about 7 to zeptograms temperature of 4.2 Kelvin). Now, the work of Bachtold and co-workers has substantially increased that resolution through the use of carbon nanotubes.

The mass of a nanotube is very low, barely a few atograms (which is a millionth of one millionth of a microgram, or 10 -18 g), so that any tiny amount of added mass will be detected. In addition, the nanotubes are mechanically ultrarigid, which makes them excellent candidates to be used as mechanical resonators.

Now, the team of Bachtold is improving the measurement set up and hopes to achieve in the near future the resolution of 0.001 zg, the mass of one nucleus. The researchers will then place proteins on the nanotube and monitor the change of the mass during chemical reactions (when a hydrogen atom is released from the protein, for instance).

Nanotechnology has been advancing rapidly in the few last years. Even so, there remain many challenges ahead, and one of them is a mass spectrometer to allow work at that level, with small biological molecules or atoms.

The development of the CIN2 team has coincided in time with others of similar characteristics, both from the U.S.A. One, at the Technical University of California (Caltech) and the other at the University of California (Berkeley). Both groups have developed mass sensors based on carbon nanotubes, with minor differences between the methods used. The fact was recently highlighted in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Mercé Fernández | alfa
Further information:
http://www.csic.es

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons
27.06.2017 | ICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences

nachricht Smooth propagation of spin waves using gold
26.06.2017 | Toyohashi University of Technology

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Drones that drive

27.06.2017 | Information Technology

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>