Iowa State, Ames Lab researchers invent new tool to study single biological molecules

AMES, Iowa – By blending optical and atomic force microscope technologies, Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have found a way to complete 3-D measurements of single biological molecules with unprecedented accuracy and precision.

Existing technologies allow researchers to measure single molecules on the x and y axes of a 2-D plane. The new technology allows researchers to make height measurements (the z axis) down to the nanometer – just a billionth of a meter – without custom optics or special surfaces for the samples.

“This is a completely new type of measurement that can be used to determine the z position of molecules,” said Sanjeevi Sivasankar, an Iowa State assistant professor of physics and astronomy and an associate of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory.

Details of the technology were recently published by the journal Nano Letters. Co-authors of the study are Sivasankar; Hui Li, an Iowa State post-doctoral research associate in physics and astronomy and an associate of the Ames Laboratory; and Chi-Fu Yen, an Iowa State doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering and a student associate of the Ames Laboratory.

The project was supported by lab startup funds from Iowa State University and a $120,075 grant from the Grow Iowa Values Fund, a state economic development program.

Read the full story from ISU News Service.