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 New type of low-energy nanolaser that shines in all directions
18.12.2018 | Eindhoven University of Technology

nachricht NASA research reveals Saturn is losing its rings at 'worst-case-scenario' rate
18.12.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

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: Data storage using individual molecules

Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.

Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Pressure tuned magnetism paves the way for novel electronic devices

18.12.2018 | Materials Sciences

New type of low-energy nanolaser that shines in all directions

18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA research reveals Saturn is losing its rings at 'worst-case-scenario' rate

18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>