Navigation Links
Team Invents Device For Weighing Individual Molecules

Physicists at the California Institute of Technology have created the first nanodevices capable of weighing individual biological molecules. This technology may lead to new forms of molecular identification that are cheaper and faster than existing methods, as well as revolutionary new instruments for proteomics.

According to Michael Roukes, professor of physics, applied physics, and bioengineering at Caltech and the founding director of Caltech's Kavli Nanoscience Institute, the technology his group has announced this week shows the immense potential of nanotechnology for creating transformational new instrumentation for the medical and life sciences. The new devices are at the nanoscale, he explains, since their principal component is significantly less than a millionth of a meter in width.

The Caltech devices are "nanoelectromechanical resonators"--essentially tiny tuning forks about a micron in length and a hundred or so nanometers wide that have a very specific frequency at which they vibrate when excited. Just as a bronze bell rings at a certain frequency based on its size, shape, and composition, these tiny tuning forks ring at their own fundamental frequency of mechanical vibration, although at such a high pitch that the "notes" are nearly as high in frequency as microwaves.

The researchers set up electronic circuitry to continually excite and monitor the frequency of the vibrating bar. Intermittently, a shutter is opened to expose the nanodevice to an atomic or molecular beam, in this case a very fine "spray" of xenon atoms or nitrogen molecules. Because the nanodevice is cooled, the molecules condense on the bar and add their mass to it, thereby lowering its frequency. In other words, the mechanical vibrations of the now slightly-more-massive nanodevice become slightly lower in frequency--just as thicker, heavier strings on an instrument sound notes that are lower than lighter ones.

Because frequency can be measured so precis ely in physics labs, the researchers are then able to evaluate extremely subtle changes in mass of the nanodevice, and therefore, the weight of the added atoms or molecules.

Roukes says that their current generation of devices is sensitive to added mass at the level of a few zeptograms, which is few billionths of a trillionth of a gram. In their experiments this represents about thirty xenon atoms-- and it is the typical mass of an individual protein molecule.

"We hope to transform this chip-based technology into systems that are useful for picking out and identifying specific molecules, one-by-one--for example certain types of proteins secreted in the very early stages of cancer," Roukes says.

"The fundamental problem with identifying these proteins is that one must sort through millions of molecules to make the measurement. You need to be able to pick out the 'needle' from the 'haystack,' and that's hard to do, among other reasons because 95 percent of the proteins in the blood have nothing to do with cancer."

The new method might ultimately permit the creation of microchips, each possessing arrays of miniature mass spectrometers, which are devices for identifying molecules based on their weight. Today, high-throughput proteomics searches are often done at facilities possessing arrays of conventional mass spectrometers that fill an entire laboratory and can cost upwards of a million dollars each, Roukes adds. By contrast, future nanodevice-based systems should cost a small fraction of today's technology, and an entire massively-parallel nanodevice system will probably ultimately fit on a desktop.

Roukes says his group has technology in hand to push mass-sensing technology to even more sensitive levels, probably to the point that individual hydrogen atoms can be weighed. Such an intricately accurate method of determining atomic-scale masses would be quite useful in areas such as quantum optics, in which individual atoms are m anipulated.

The next step for Roukes' team at Caltech is to engineer the interfaces so that individual biological molecules can be weighed. For this, the team will likely collaborate with various proteomics labs for side-by-side comparisons of already known information on the mass of biological molecules with results obtained with the new method.

Roukes announced the technology in Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 24, at a news conference during the annual American Physical Society convention. Further results will be published in the near future.

The Caltech team behind the zepto result included Dr. Ya-Tang Yang, former graduate student in applied physics, now at Applied Materials; Dr. Carlo Callegari, former postdoctoral associate, now a professor at the University of Graz, Austria; Xiaoli Feng, current graduate student in electrical engineering; and Dr. Kamil Ekinci former postdoctoral associate, now a professor at Boston University.


'"/>

Source:Caltech


Related biology news :

1. Implanted Devices Detect High-Risk Heart Failure Patients
2. Device traps, disables harmful bacteria
3. Device effective in zapping the pain out of migraines
4. Plutonium or greenhouse gases? Weighing the energy options
5. Duke Chemists Isolating Individual Molecules Of Toxic Protein In Alzheimers, Parkinsons Disease
6. Individual differences in a clock gene predict decline of performance during sleep deprivation
7. Individuals and populations differ in gene activity levels, not just genes
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:


(Date:4/17/2017)... , April 17, 2017 NXT-ID, Inc. ... company, announces the filing of its 2016 Annual Report on Form ... Exchange Commission. ... Form 10-K is available in the Investor Relations section of the ... on the SEC,s website at http://www.sec.gov . 2016 ...
(Date:4/11/2017)... , April 11, 2017 No ... but researchers at the New York University Tandon ... of Engineering have found that partial similarities between ... systems used in mobile phones and other electronic ... The vulnerability lies in the fact ...
(Date:4/5/2017)... , April 4, 2017 KEY FINDINGS ... anticipated to expand at a CAGR of 25.76% during ... diseases is the primary factor for the growth of ... report: https://www.reportbuyer.com/product/4807905/ MARKET INSIGHTS The global ... product, technology, application, and geography. The stem cell market ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:8/15/2017)... ... August 15, 2017 , ... JULABO USA introduces its new ... website makes it easy to navigate through the site whether you’re in the ... product information, educational industry content and visit the company’s social media accounts, all ...
(Date:8/11/2017)... , Aug. 11, 2017  Market ... New York Times article regarding the telemedicine ... according to Kalorama Information.  The article, ... for That"  used information from Kalorama ... Monitoring & Telemedicine Market  (Sleep, Diabetes, ...
(Date:8/10/2017)... ... August 09, 2017 , ... As ... industry reach its ideal customers with the right message. Their effective, cutting-edge inbound ... Midwest company, we realize how crucial the agriculture industry is,” said David Phelps, ...
(Date:8/10/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... August 09, 2017 , ... Okyanos Center ... take place at the Pelican Bay Hotel in Freeport, Grand Bahama on September 27, ... is required. , With oversight from the Ministry of Health’s National Stem Cell ...
Breaking Biology Technology: