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Science

Nanoscale Device Can Weigh a Single Molecule 40

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the ride-the-wave dept.
DevotedSkeptic writes "Caltech scientists have created an ultra-sensitive device that can weigh an individual molecule for the first time. The device is invisible to the naked eye and vibrates at a specific frequency based on the molecule resting on top of its bridge like structure." More in the Caltech press release. This is an improvement on a design from 2009 that also could theoretically weigh a single molecule, but in practice could not because the position along the "bridge" affected the result. Now the researchers have figured out how to measure the position of the molecule on the bridge and compensate. The device is built using semiconductor fabrication techniques "...making it easy to mass-produce. That's crucial, since instruments that are efficient enough for doctors or biologists to use will need arrays of hundreds to tens of thousands of these bridges working in parallel. 'With the incorporation of the devices that are made by techniques for large-scale integration, we're well on our way to creating such instruments,' Roukes says. This new technology, the researchers say, will enable the development of a new generation of mass-spectrometry instruments." The full article is behind a paywall unfortunately.
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Nanoscale Device Can Weigh a Single Molecule

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    a Heisenberg Compensator! Soon we'll have transporters too!

    • a Heisenberg Compensator! Soon we'll have transporters too!

      No they didn't. They invented a fancy vibrator.
      Heisenberg states that you can't know both the precise position and precise momentum of a particle.

  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Monday August 27, 2012 @07:30PM (#41143639) Homepage Journal
    NanoElectroMechanicalSensor (NEMS) mass spec has been in development for some time, and will be worth the wait when it comes to be mature. This not only can weigh a single molecule, it also can dramatically outperform existing sensors when measuring the mass of very large molecules (think protein complexes, viruses, and so on). A lot of different groups - including one at Pacific Northwest National Labs and another at Cornell (on top of the CalTech group mentioned in this article)- have been working on this technology. The ability to further reduce the physical size (and power consumption) of a mass spec will also pay dividends for using mass spec for diagnostic applications.
    • by sFurbo (1361249)

      This not only can weigh a single molecule, it also can dramatically outperform existing sensors when measuring the mass of very large molecules (think protein complexes, viruses, and so on).

      In what ways does it outperform existing detectors? I have seen a MALDI-TOF mass spectrum of a E. Coli cell, so it can't be m/z range.

      The ability to further reduce the physical size (and power consumption) of a mass spec will also pay dividends for using mass spec for diagnostic applications.

      doesn't this require a vacuum? A quadropole MS can be quite small, but the vacuum pumps are large.

  • The article didn't disclose who was funding the research, however there is a good chance it could have been funded at least in part by the NIH as they have a significant interest in this field. If they did help fund it, then the article will be available for free fairly soon (it isn't even indexed in pubmed yet).

    Otherwise, just ask your favorite academic, or visit the library of your closest university. Most academic libraries have Nature Biotechnology included with their subscription to the regular journal Nature.
    • Otherwise, just ask your favorite academic,

      I don't work for or with CalTech, but I am currently active in the field of MEMS/NEMS biological and chemical sensing. I'm happy to hang around and answer any general questions people might have about this technology.

    • by mirateu (2717061)
      Ciekawa sprawa http://oryginalnezegarki.pl/ [oryginalnezegarki.pl]
  • A nano-scale...

  • Just imagine a Beowulf cluster of these. We would be able to weight millions of molecules at the same time!
  • "The critical advance that we've made in this current work is that it now allows us to weigh molecules—one by one—as they come in [youtube.com]," Roukes says.

  • Funding will dry up once the next administration takes over, they don't want to acknowledge single molecules, only married ones. Single molecules could be gay...

  • by fa2k (881632)

    They seem to be measuring the mass of the particle. At such small scales, there may be a difference between the weight and the mass, as theories of extra dimensions predict that gravity gets stronger at small scales. This couldn't be used to test those theories, because it (from what I can tell) measures the inertial mass, i.e. the one that appears in Newton's law F = ma. I think that as long as LHC does not see any gravitons, the limit for the size of the extra dimensions goes down (smaller than the size o

    • by fa2k (881632)

      Oh and I'm wrong again. Even if it did 'weigh' the molecule, it would be measuring the gravitational pull of a huge, far away, object on a tiny object. I think the argument with extra dimension only holds for the forces between two objects that are very close. Sorry, I should really start thinking before I post.

  • Since when did a single molecule become a standard weight of measure? Last I checked the periodic table disagreed.

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