Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Yikes! Sensor measures yoctonewton forces fast

Date:
September 11, 2010
Source:
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Summary:
Physicists have used a small crystal of ions (electrically charged atoms) to detect forces at the scale of yoctonewtons. Measurements of slight forces -- one yoctonewton is equivalent to the weight of a single copper atom on Earth -- can be useful in force microscopy, nanoscale science, and tests of fundamental physics theories.

The NIST force sensor is a crystal of ions (charged atoms) trapped inside the upper region of the copper cylinder. A laser beam directed upward through the trap cools the ions. A force is applied in the form of an oscillating electric field, and a detector (not shown) measures the light reflected off the ions.
Credit: Bollinger/NIST

Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have used a small crystal of ions (electrically charged atoms) to detect forces at the scale of yoctonewtons. Measurements of slight forces -- one yoctonewton is equivalent to the weight of a single copper atom on Earth -- can be useful in force microscopy, nanoscale science, and tests of fundamental physics theories.

A newton is already a small unit: roughly the force of Earth's gravity on a small apple. A yoctonewton is one septillionth of a newton (yocto means 23 zeros after the decimal place, or 0.000000000000000000000001).

Measurements of vanishingly small forces typically are made with tiny mechanical oscillators, which vibrate like guitar strings. The new NIST sensor, described in Nature Nanotechnology, is even more exotic -- a flat crystal of about 60 beryllium ions trapped inside a vacuum chamber by electromagnetic fields and cooled to 500 millionths of a degree above absolute zero with an ultraviolet laser. The apparatus was developed over the past 15 years for experiments related to ion plasmas and quantum computing. In this case, it was used to measure yoctonewton-scale forces from an applied electric field. In particular, the experiment showed that it was possible to measure about 390 yoctonewtons in just one second of measurement time, a rapid speed that indicates the technique's high sensitivity. Sensitivity is an asset for practical applications.

The previous force measurement record with this level of sensitivity was achieved by another NIST physicist who measured forces 1,000 times larger, or 500 zeptonewtons (0.0000000000000000005 newtons) in one second of measurement time using a mechanical oscillator. Previous NIST research indicated that a single trapped ion could sense forces at yoctonewton scales but did not make calibrated measurements.

The ion sensor described in Nature Nanotechnology works by examining how an applied force affects ion motion, based on changes in laser light reflected off the ions. A small oscillating electric field applied to the crystal causes the ions to rock back and forth; as the ions rock, the intensity of the reflected laser light wobbles in sync with the ion motion. A change in the amount of reflected laser light due to the force is detectable, providing a measure of the ions' induced motion using a principle similar to the one at work in a police officer's radar gun. The technique is highly sensitive because of the low mass of the ions, strong response of charged particles to external electric fields, and ability to detect nanometer-scale changes in ion motion.

The research was funded in part by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The first author, M.J. Biercuk, did the work as a post-doctoral researcher at NIST and is now at the University Sydney in Australia. Co-author H. Uys did the work as a NIST guest researcher and has since returned to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Pretoria, South Africa.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. Michael J. Biercuk, Hermann Uys, Joe W. Britton, Aaron P. VanDevender, John J. Bollinger. Ultrasensitive detection of force and displacement using trapped ions. Nature Nanotechnology, 2010; DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2010.165
  2. J. D. Teufel, T. Donner, M. A. Castellanos-Beltran, J. W. Harlow, K. W. Lehnert. Nanomechanical motion measured with an imprecision below that at the standard quantum limit. Nature Nanotechnology, 2009; 4 (12): 820 DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2009.343

Cite This Page:

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "Yikes! Sensor measures yoctonewton forces fast." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100901111638.htm>.
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). (2010, September 11). Yikes! Sensor measures yoctonewton forces fast. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100901111638.htm
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "Yikes! Sensor measures yoctonewton forces fast." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100901111638.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Government Approves East Coast Oil Exploration

Government Approves East Coast Oil Exploration

AP (July 18, 2014) The Obama administration approved the use of sonic cannons to discover deposits under the ocean floor by shooting sound waves 100 times louder than a jet engine through waters shared by endangered whales and turtles. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time

Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time

Newsy (July 18, 2014) The wreckage of the German submarine U-166 has become clearly visible for the first time since it was discovered in 2001. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: U.S. Must Have "smartest Airports, Best Power Grid"

Obama: U.S. Must Have "smartest Airports, Best Power Grid"

Reuters - US Online Video (July 17, 2014) President Barak Obama stopped by at a lunch counter in Delaware before making remarks about boosting the nation's infrastructure. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Crude Oil Prices Bounce Back After Falling Below $100 a Barrel

Crude Oil Prices Bounce Back After Falling Below $100 a Barrel

TheStreet (July 16, 2014) Oil Futures are bouncing back after tumbling below $100 a barrel for the first time since May yesterday. Jeff Grossman is the president of BRG Brokerage and trades at the NYMEX. Grossman tells TheStreet the Middle East is always a concern for oil traders. Oil prices were pushed down in recent weeks on Libya increasing its production. Supply disruptions in Iraq fading also contributed to prices falling. News from China's economic front showing a growth for the second quarter also calmed fears on its slowdown. Jeff Grossman talks to TheStreet's Susannah Lee on this and more on the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration (EIA) report. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins