Nanotechnology has great potential for being used to create better medicines, materials, and sensors. With increasing interest in nanotechnology to improve the quality of our lives, there has been an increasing use of nanoscience tools to measure force and displacement to understand nanoscale phenomena. However, to better exploit the physical attributes of nanoscale phenomena for engineered nanosystems, we must be able to explore the phenomena much more precisely than can be done today. For instance, the atomic force microscope (AFM), which was one of the tools used to begin the nanotechnology revolution, is the force-deflection tool that is most widely used by nanotechnologist today. It is used to measure forces on the order of picoNewtons (similar to the force necessary to rupture DNA) and it is used as a positioner to measure displacements on the order of tenths of nanometers (similar to the size of atoms). However, precise calibration of the AFM is difficult (only about 1% precision), and it is not sensitive enough to measure more subtle nanoscale phenomena, e.g. forces involved in protein folding. Currently, the more subtle nanoscale phenomena are either beyond precise verification, or worse – beyond discovery. In this seminar, I will discus how my group will use microelectromechanical systems to 1) calibrate preexisting force-displacement tools such as the AFM in bending and in torsion; and 2) develop force-displacement tools that are several orders of magnitude more precise and more sensitive than convention.
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