Nanomechanical sensor can measure the mass of a proton

first_imgThe nanomechanical sensorScientists at the Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology in Barcelona, Spain have  created a nanomechanical sensor that is thought to be the most sensitive ever created. It can measure changes in mass as small as 1.7 yoctograms, which is the mass of a single proton.Given the scale being woarked at, one simply cannot just throw a proton on a bathroom scale to discover its weight. The sensor in question is actually a short (150nm) nanotube that measures mass changes through vibration. This is achieved by taking a reading before and after a mass has been added to the tube. In so doing, it’s possible to measure the difference in weight within the tube.Previously, the process of using nanotubes to measure such minuscule weights was limited to being able to detect 100 yoctograms, which in itself is impressive. However, by shortening the length of the nanotubes used and lowering the temperature to -269 degrees Celsius, it was possible to measure just 1.7 yoctograms. Conducted in a vacuum, the researchers were able to weigh an atom of xenon successfully to the nearest yoctogram.With this significant breakthrough, many other avenues of research could open up. Scientists using these smaller nanotubes could analyze tissue differences in humans to help diagnose issues at the molecular level, possibly giving insight that we have not achieved before. The hurdle to this becoming a part of the everyday toolset for researchers is the ability to recreate the same nanotubes and conditions that were used in Spain cheaply across the world. That’s just a matter of time, however, as advances continue to be made steadily in nanotechnology.Read more at the Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology, via Nature and New Scientistlast_img

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