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Scientists moving closer to 'artificial noses'
Date:4/23/2009

itting on a chip the size of a fingernail, each one for highly specifically recognizing a single molecule so you could build an extremely sensitive 'artificial nose', for example."

Until recently, however, getting such systems to work has proven technically difficult; one problem being to produce and measure the oscillations. While the nanostrings can be made to oscillate by magnetomechanical, piezoelectric or electrothermal excitement, this only works if the nanostrings are made of metal, or are at least metal-coated, which in turn greatly dampens the oscillations, preventing sensitive measurement. That hardly allows the detection of a single molecule. It also makes it harder to distinguish the different signals from differently oscillating strings.

The newly developed method now avoids these difficulties. Quirin Unterreithmeier, Dr. Eva Weig and Professor Jrg Kotthaus of the Center for NanoScience (CeNS), the Faculty of Physics of LMU Munich and the cluster of excellence "Nanosystems Initiative Munich (NIM)" have constructed an NEMS in which the nanostrings are excited individually by dielectric interaction the same phenomenon that makes hair stand on end in winter. Following this physical principle, the nanostrings, which are made of electrically non-conducting silicon nitride, are excited to resonate when exposed to an oscillating inhomogeneous electric field, and their vibration then measured.

The alternating electric field required for this stimulation was produced between two gold electrodes right up close to the string. The oscillations were measured by two other electrodes. "We created this setup using etching techniques," reports Weig. "But this was easily done even repeated ten thousand times on a chip. The only thing to do now is to make sure the strings can be individually addressed by a suitable circuit." All in all, this ought to be a technically easy exercise but one that will allow a breakthrough in chemical analysis
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Contact: Luise Dirscherl
dirscherl@lmu.de
49-089-218-02706
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitt Mnchen
Source:Eurekalert

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