The Most Sensitive Scale Ever Can Measure The Mass of One Proton

By Sarah Zhang | April 4, 2012 9:45 am

spacing is important

The smallest named unit in the metric system is the yoctogram, equal to 0.000000000000000000000001 grams. (Yes, that’s 24 zeros.) For a scale that can measure differences in mass as small as a yoctogram, which is on the order of the mass of a proton, physicists writing in Nature Nanotechnology turned to the wunderkind of nanotechnology: carbon nanotubes.

Carbon nanotubes are tiny—though not quite yoctogram-tiny—sheets of carbon rolled up into a cylinder. When an atom or molecule is placed on a vibrating carbon nanotube, the nanotube’s resonance frequency changes depending on the molecule’s mass. The sensor works at temperatures below -200 Celsius and in a vacuum, which eliminates the possibility of gas molecules bouncing around and messing with measurements.

A yoctogram scale is just another use among many for carbon nanotubes, which contribute to everything from paper-thin loudspeakers to killing cancer, to super fertilizer, solar cells, electricity-generating fabric, water filters…the list goes on and on.

[via New Scientist]

Image via Shutterstock / Mr.X3dart

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Physics & Math
  • Kunle

    nice

  • http://discovermagazine.com Iain

    Cost per measurement is …..

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