Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Nanoscale Device Can Weigh a Single Molecule

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the ride-the-wave dept.

Science 40

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.

cancel ×

40 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

OMG, they invented... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41143617)

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

Re:OMG, they invented... (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#41143887)

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.

Re:OMG, they invented... (1)

haruchai (17472) | more than 2 years ago | (#41143977)

They'd best be careful - I think Penn Jillette has a patent on those.

This Tech Was Worth The Wait (4, Informative)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 2 years ago | (#41143639)

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.

Re:This Tech Was Worth The Wait (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | more than 2 years ago | (#41149687)

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.

Does this nanoscale make me look fat? (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 2 years ago | (#41143653)

n/t

Re:Does this nanoscale make me look fat? (1)

tedgyz (515156) | more than 2 years ago | (#41144153)

Billions and billions of molecules...

Re:Does this nanoscale make me look fat? (1, Funny)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#41144315)

Nah, it's the big bones in your ass and stomach.

Article might be available for free later (4, Informative)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 2 years ago | (#41143753)

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.

Re:Article might be available for free later (1)

niftydude (1745144) | more than 2 years ago | (#41145047)

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.

Re:Article might be available for free later (2)

mirateu (2717061) | more than 2 years ago | (#41146673)

Ciekawa sprawa http://oryginalnezegarki.pl/ [oryginalnezegarki.pl]

wha? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41143913)

I'm no rocket surgeon, but last I knew a 'molecule' was not a measurement of weight. (or shouldn't that be mass?)

Re:wha? (2)

tedgyz (515156) | more than 2 years ago | (#41144135)

On planet Earth, weight [wikipedia.org] and mass [wikipedia.org] ) are roughly the same thing. I read the blurb to mean measuring the gravitational force on a molecule. I wonder if they used any experiments in space to get a baseline to measure against?

BTW, don't be confused by these weights [weightwatchers.com] and masses [wikipedia.org] .

Re:wha? (1)

phluid61 (2501032) | more than 2 years ago | (#41145111)

On planet Earth, weight [wikipedia.org] and mass [wikipedia.org] ) are roughly the same thing

Er, sure, except that they're completely different, because "weight" is a force, measured in newtons (or some scaled variant thereof) and mass is a fundamental property, measured in kilograms (or some scaled variant thereof). Don't go bringing any weird American "1 pound ~= 1 pound" nonsense in here.

Re:wha? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41145717)

Don't go bringing any weird American "1 pound ~= 1 pound" nonsense in here.

No need to, since there is the solid 1 kg ~= 1 kgf

Re:wha? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41145961)

Don't go bringing any weird American "1 pound ~= 1 pound" nonsense in here.

No need to, since there is the solid 1 kg ~= 1 kgf

Those are different units. That is like saying that 1V ~= 1A. Except for the unit part it's true, but only given certain conditions.

Re:wha? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41149327)

Since using ~= and not =, I don't think that is implying they are the same unit, only that they are roughly equivalent. A voltage and current can be interchangeable in some specific narrow contexts, e.g. a current monitor that outputs a voltage proportional to the current. But there are many such factors for many different contexts, and rarely could one assume such a factor without impeding communication. However, a majority of the time, the conversion between mass and weight is pretty close to the standard gravity used to define things like kgf. It should be pretty obvious from context.

Anyway, the more important point was not that those are the same, but that metric is not immune from weird mass ~= weight issues, thanks to units like the kilopond and hyl.

Re:wha? (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | more than 2 years ago | (#41149771)

I read the blurb to mean measuring the gravitational force on a molecule.

This technique measures the effect on the vibrational frequency of the bridge, so it measures the inertial mass.

Re:wha? (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#41144329)

I have scales that can measure the weight of a single molecule too. My kitchen scale is more than capable of measuring the weight of some of the heavier diamond molecules.

The mass of atoms, on the other hand, is a very different thing.

Re:wha? (1)

phluid61 (2501032) | more than 2 years ago | (#41145123)

Do (atomic) crystals count as molecules?

puns now, really? (1)

sylvandb (308927) | more than 2 years ago | (#41144015)

A nano-scale...

How do you spell caltech incorrectly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41144021)

Good grief.

Beowulf cluster (2, Funny)

jcfandino (2196932) | more than 2 years ago | (#41144201)

Just imagine a Beowulf cluster of these. We would be able to weight millions of molecules at the same time!

Re:Beowulf cluster (1)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 2 years ago | (#41144657)

Great! Just what the wife needed, something that can weight her at molecular level!

Re:Beowulf cluster of puns/typos (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#41154925)

Great! Just what the wife needed, something that can weight her at molecular level

Weight for it...

Re:Beowulf cluster (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 2 years ago | (#41165847)

Technically, that is what you want from something like this - parallelized sensors to weigh a population of molecules.

It's a sweatshop (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 2 years ago | (#41144695)

"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.

Tweezers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41144741)

The hard part is putting the molecule on the bridge with the teeny tiny tweezers.

Re:Tweezers (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 2 years ago | (#41145055)

It might not be so bad for large comlex organic molecules, but what about a molecule of hydrogen, or a single helium atom?

Re:Tweezers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41155921)

Don't we already know how much those weigh?

go4t (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41145037)

Been thge best, Effort to addEress

A single molecule? (0)

rossdee (243626) | more than 2 years ago | (#41145071)

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...

Re:A single molecule? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41145355)

Single molecules could be gay...

Don't be silly. Molecules can't be gay. Atoms on the other hand... like, H2 and O2, we know what they're up to. Don't worry. They have a plan to stop those immoral atoms. In one great flash of judgement and the fury of God Almighty, those gay molecules will be no more. Even better, it'll supply fresh water. What's that you say? H is still gay? Well it's smaller so it must be female. Wait... Hot lesbian threesomes by government mandate? I'm switching parties tomorrow.

Will this nanoscale scale scale? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41145763)

Yes. Will it blend? It will blend -- into the background.

Mass (1)

fa2k (881632) | more than 2 years ago | (#41146489)

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 of a molecule)

Re:Mass (1)

fa2k (881632) | more than 2 years ago | (#41146505)

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... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41148425)

Since when did "A Molecule" become a standard weight of measure? Last I checked the periodic table disagreed.

Since when... (1)

Mr10001 (1686378) | more than 2 years ago | (#41148455)

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

Pay wall (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41149501)

Spam

Expected problems..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41150125)

Once we have equipment capable of manipulating individual atoms - using semiconductor fabrication techniques, so that they're cheap - we will expect...

- wives to be able to analyse the air clinging to a husband's suit to find out where he's been...
- lawyers to start suing because their client found a molecule of arsenic in their ham...
- environmentalists demonstrating because they can find molecules of plutonium in a lake somewhere..

and a final answer to the question of whether or not we breath in atoms which were once part of Napoleon or Julius Caesar with every breath.

Surely there are some things that man was not meant to know?

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?