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Miniscule Molecules Get a Weigh In

mass, molecules, nanoscience, NSF
An image of the molecule-weighing scale. (Image credit: Caltech / Scott Kelber and Michael Roukes)

This Research in Action article was provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

This scanning electron micrograph shows one of the molecule-weighing devices. When a particle or molecule lands on the bridge-like section at the center, the bridge vibrates sideways, changing the oscillating frequency in a way that reveals how much the particle weighs. The scale bar at the bottom is two microns (millionths of a meter). This technology could eventually help doctors diagnose diseases, enable biologists to study viruses and probe the molecular machinery of cells, and allow scientists to better measure nanoparticles and air pollution.

Editor's Note:Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. See the Research in Action archive.