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Ultrastable atomic force microscope

Research Achievements

Ultrastable atomic force microscope

Research associate Gavin King, OSEP-IGERT student Ashley Carter and fellow student Allison Churnside collaborated to produce, along with their advisor Dr. Tom Perkins, an ultrastable atomic force microscope (AFM) capable of precisely studying proteins in real-world (ambient) conditions. The AFM is 100 times more stable than other state-of-the-art AFMs, one of the most widely used tools in nanoscience. However, using just AFM technology to probe a protein under ambient conditions is akin to trying to write a letter while on a back country road in a jeep, i.e., there’s a lot of movement happening at room temperature in either the air or liquids where biomolecules are found. Through the use of certain techniques, however, this AFM should allow researchers to monitor a biomolecule’s conformational dynamics in real time, while canceling out the unwanted motion that obscures such measurements in conventional instruments, analogous to "noise-canceling headphones" popular on noisy airplanes.