In collaboration with colleagues from Berlin and Madrid, researchers at the Department of Physics at the University of Basel have pulled up isolated molecular chains from a gold surface, using the tip of an atomic force microscope (AFM). The observed signal provides insight into the detachment force and binding energy of molecules. The results have been published in the renowned scientific journal PNAS.
Atomic force microscopy is a method normally used for imaging matter with very high resolution. The sharp tip of the microscope is used to scan the surface line by line. The resolution is so high, that single atoms can be seen.
“This method is roughly equivalent to using the tip of the Matterhorn to scan the surface of a tennis ball”, says Prof. Ernst Meyer of the Department for Physics at the University of Basel. Due to an improved method, the scientists are now able to investigate the mechanical behavior of a single polymer being pulled off a surface.
Using the tip of the AFM, the researchers were able to pull single chains of molecules (polymers) off a gold surface. “The molecule-surface interaction during pulling is so weak that each chain link (molecular unit) detaches successively.
Thus, the whole chain can be pulled off almost vertically to the surface”, explains Meyer. By analyzing the observed oscillations, the researchers are able to make quantitative statements on the binding energy of each molecular unit.
Motion without friction
Furthermore, the experiments showed that the polymers could be pulled off with almost no lateral forces. This remarkable behavior of nearly frictionless motion was predicted by a theoretical model and has now been verified for molecules on a gold surface.
Previously, the mechanical behavior of single polymer during pulling from a surface had never been investigated with atomic-scale resolution. The findings and calculations of the research team now provide detailed insight into this process for the first time.
Such investigations are not only of interest for the field of physics, but also for biology and chemistry, since the method of pulling polymers from surfaces can also be applied to biological molecules. So far, valuable insights have been obtianed into the folding and unfolding of DNA and proteins. Chemical reactions of small biopolymer sub units or complex polymer chains under the influence of traction forces and catalytic nanoparticles could be investigated with this new method.
Shigeki Kawai, Matthias Koch, Enrico Gnecco, Ali Sadeghi, Rémy Pawlak, Thilo Glatzel, Jutta Schwarz, Stefan Goedecker, Stefan Hecht, Alexis Baratoff, Leonhard Grill and Ernst Meyer
Quantifying the atomic-level mechanics of single long physisorbed molecular chains
PNAS Early Edition | doi: 10.1073/pnas.1319938111
Prof. Ernst Meyer, University of Basel, Department of Physics, phone: +41 61 267 37 24, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Olivia Poisson | Universität Basel
Treasure hunting in archive data reveals clues about black holes’ diet
23.07.2015 | Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, Garching
An easy, scalable and direct method for synthesizing graphene in silicon microelectronics
22.07.2015 | American Institute of Physics
Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.
Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight
A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...
Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are one step closer to delivering smart windows with a new level of energy efficiency, engineering materials that allow windows to reveal light without transferring heat and, conversely, to block light while allowing heat transmission, as described in two new research papers.
By allowing indoor occupants to more precisely control the energy and sunlight passing through a window, the new materials could significantly reduce costs for...
Argonne scientists used Mira to identify and improve a new mechanism for eliminating friction, which fed into the development of a hybrid material that exhibited superlubricity at the macroscale for the first time. Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) researchers helped enable the groundbreaking simulations by overcoming a performance bottleneck that doubled the speed of the team's code.
While reviewing the simulation results of a promising new lubricant material, Argonne researcher Sanket Deshmukh stumbled upon a phenomenon that had never been...
A NASA camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite has returned its first view of the entire sunlit side of Earth from one million miles away.
The color images of Earth from NASA's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) are generated by combining three separate images to create a...
23.07.2015 | Event News
10.07.2015 | Event News
25.06.2015 | Event News
27.07.2015 | Materials Sciences
27.07.2015 | Information Technology
27.07.2015 | Power and Electrical Engineering