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08.28.12 News
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Weighing Molecules One At A Time

A team led by scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have made the first-ever mechanical device that can measure the mass of individual molecules one at a time. This new technology, the researchers say, will eventually help doctors diagnose diseases, enable biologists to study viruses and probe the molecular machinery of cells, and even allow scientists to better measure nanoparticles and air pollution.

The device — which is only a couple millionths of a meter in size — consists of a tiny, vibrating bridge-like structure. When a particle or molecule lands on the bridge, its mass changes the oscillating frequency in a way that reveals how much the particle weighs.

Image credit: Caltech / Scott Kelberg and Michael Roukes