A small change to existing technology dramatically increases stability and precision, therefore the accuracy of the tool.
This Research in Action article was provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation.
To measure single molecules in a liquid, atomic force microscopes rely on tiny springboard devices known as cantilever probes. Molecules such as DNA attach to these probes and scientists measure the force exerted when the molecule pulls on the probe. Until recently, the cantilevers were coated with gold to improve their ability to reflect light.
However, research at JILA, a joint institute between the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Colorado Boulder (JILA/NIST) suggests that stripping the cantilevers of their gold coating actually improves AFM precision and stability.
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