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
Astronomers release most complete ultraviolet-light survey of nearby galaxies
18.05.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
A quantum entanglement between two physically separated ultra-cold atomic clouds
17.05.2018 | University of the Basque Country
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully implanted regenerative heart valves, designed with the aid of computer simulations, into sheep for the first time.
Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing...
A team of scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg investigated optically-induced superconductivity in the alkali-doped fulleride K3C60under high external pressures. This study allowed, on one hand, to uniquely assess the nature of the transient state as a superconducting phase. In addition, it unveiled the possibility to induce superconductivity in K3C60 at temperatures far above the -170 degrees Celsius hypothesized previously, and rather all the way to room temperature. The paper by Cantaluppi et al has been published in Nature Physics.
Unlike ordinary metals, superconductors have the unique capability of transporting electrical currents without any loss. Nowadays, their technological...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
18.05.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
18.05.2018 | Information Technology
18.05.2018 | Information Technology