Magnetic Nano Actuators for Quantitative Analysis (MANAQA)
Project Partners: ETH Zurich, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Universitat Wurzburg, AEON Scientific, Happy Plating.
This is a multidisciplinary research project that combines innovative technologies emerging from different fields including nanotechnology, biochemistry, and nanorobotics. The strategy is based on a recently developed 5-DOF magnetic manipulation system combined with an atomic force microscope (AFM) system and functionalized magnetic nanowires. The fusion of these technologies has the potential to revolutionize many aspects of single-molecule manipulation and measurement. Information related to the structure and physical properties of macromolecules (i.e., proteins, polynucleotides) is obtained. In a typical experiment, a molecule is regiospecifically attached between a magnetic nanowire and the tip of an AFM cantilever. The extremely small footprint of the magnetic nanowire and the accuracy of a five degree-of-freedom magnetic manipulation system allow high-resolution and stable force control on the molecule. The mechanical response of the molecule is monitored using the AFM cantilever. Moreover, the system is capable of measuring the electrical parameters of the nanowire-molecule hybrid. The success of this research will lead to long time-scale, low drift experiments that will provide invaluable insights on mechanisms governing conformational changes in single macromolecules by elucidating protein folding/unfolding/refolding trajectories at a low-force regime. The research opens new avenues in disciplines such as biochemistry, pharmacy, and biomedicine. The development of new miniaturized electronic devices with single chemical entities integrated as their components will revolutionize the field of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).
Ultra-stable molecular force spectroscopy with micromachined transducers (UTMOST)
The objective of this research project is to develop micromachined transducers for improved atomic force microscopy (AFM) based biomolecular mechanics measurements. The research focus is on the design and microfabrication of these transducers that allow ultra-stable measurements for applications in life sciences. Successful implementation of ultra-stable molecular force spectroscopy with micromachined transducers (UTMOST) will facilitate biomolecular measurements with unprecedented stability and accuracy. The proposed approach is to design transducers that thermo-mechanically match the AFM cantilevers. The transducer comprises a micro-stage anchored to its substrate using bimaterial and isolation legs. Bimaterial legs are made of two different materials with different values of coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE). Due to CTE mismatch, these legs deflect under thermal fluctuations. It is guaranteed by design that the micro-stage deflects identically with the AFM cantilever. This provides constant tip-to-transducer distance at all times so that the force applied on the biomolecules stays the same.
MEMS-based terahertz detectors
The aim of the proposed research is to develop a novel detector operational in 1-3 THz band. Microsystem technology based thermo-mechanical detectors will be developed in this project. The detector will be compatible with both passive and active detection methods. A passive detector absorbs radiation emitted from a target while the detector in an active system absorbs power reflected off of a target that is being illuminated by an external source. The working principle of the proposed system can be summarized as follows. The absorbed radiation is converted to heat energy on the microstructure. This causes an increase in the temperature of the free-standing microstructure that is thermally isolated well from the substrate. The increase in temperature causes deflection along the microstructure that is connected to its substrate via bimaterial legs with different coefficients of thermal expansion. Displacement is read out by optical means.
We gratefully acknowledge various agencies that fund our research: