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Taking the 3-D measure of macromolecules:
Date:6/16/2011

The world's first three-dimensional plasmon rulers, capable of measuring nanometer-scale spatial changes in macrmolecular systems, have been developed by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), in collaboration with researchers at the University of Stuttgart, Germany. These 3D plasmon rulers could provide scientists with unprecedented details on such critical dynamic events in biology as the interaction of DNA with enzymes, the folding of proteins, the motion of peptides or the vibrations of cell membranes.

"We've demonstrated a 3D plasmon ruler, based on coupled plasmonic oligomers in combination with high-resolution plasmon spectroscopy, that enables us to retrieve the complete spatial configuration of complex macromolecular and biological processes, and to track the dynamic evolution of these processes," says Paul Alivisatos, director of Berkeley Lab and leader of this research.

Alivisatos, who is also the Larry and Diane Bock Professor of Nanotechnology at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, is the senior author of a paper in the journal Science describing this research. The paper is titled "Three-Dimensional Plasmon Rulers." Co-authoring this paper were Laura Na Liu, who at the time the work was done was a member of Alivisatos' research group but is now with Rice University, and Mario Hentschel, Thomas Weiss and Harald Giessen with the University of Stuttgart.

The nanometer scale is where the biological and materials sciences converge. As human machines and devices shrink to the size of biomolecules, scientists need tools by which to precisely measure minute structural changes and distances. To this end, researchers have been developing linear rulers based on the electronic surface waves known as "plasmons," which are generated when light travels through the confined dimensions of noble metal nanoparticles or structures, such as gold or silver
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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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