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Nanotechnology torque detected with exquisite sensitivity

The useful website Nanowerk describes a new technique invented by researchers in Spain which should be useful in analyzing nanotechnology devices:

Many protein molecules, such as those that process DNA, execute twisting motions, but researchers have only managed to measure the torques in a few cases. Often the random thermal jiggling of water molecules makes rotation hard to detect. A new analysis technique reported in the 24 November Physical Review Letters (“Torque Detection using Brownian Fluctuations“) cuts through this noisy mess to reveal a hidden torque. Compared to other measurements, this method achieves ten times higher torque sensitivity. It could be applied to proteins, DNA, or even synthetic nanomotors developed for futuristic devices…

David Leigh of the University of Edinburgh has developed a molecule-sized motor whose light-induced rotation could power future nanomachines. He says more precise torque measurements like those of Petrov and Volpe are “crucial for improving our understanding of how biomolecular machines work and for assessing how well the current early generations of synthetic molecular machines work.”

The researchers involved do photonics. Amazing to see the variety of backgrounds being brought to bear on the challenge of synthetic molecular machines. —Christine

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