The forces experienced by molecules in cells, but also in all the materials around us, are so small that even the most accurate existing measuring devices are barely able to detect whether it is a force at all. "Until now, everything was black or white, either there was a force or there wasn't -- existing methods couldn't determine anything in between," says Joris Sprakel, research group leader at Sprakel Lab and the Physical Chemistry and Soft Matter Group of Wageningen University & Research. "With a team of three young researchers and an advanced student we've brought together various areas of expertise. And we came up with the idea that it had to be theoretically possible to detect the forces at molecular level by using the molecule itself as a nano measuring device. We no longer measure black or white, but 'fifty shades of grey' so to speak."
Expressed in technical terms the force sensing of 1 molecule has a resolution of one hundred femtoNewton. As a force this is written as 0.000,000,000,0001 Newton (1 Newton feels like around 100 grams). "But a molecule is also unbelievably small, about one nanometre, or one millionth of a millimetre," says Joris Sprakel. "This force of one hundred femtoNewton that presses on a molecule of one nanometre can be compared with the force of a grain of sand on a person's shoulder. And we can measure such small forces with the relationships that are a billion times smaller."
Measuring - Method - Insight - Forces - Level
Using the new measuring method, it is possible to gain more insight into the forces that are active on a molecular level in the living cells of plants, animals and humans. "For example, in the...
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