‘Tweezers’ of Graphene can Trap Biomolecules
Graphene tweezers can be used to trap biomolecules, with low voltage and the tweezers of graphene has the capability to sense molecules, which could lead to revolutionary handheld disease diagnostic system.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota claimed on December 1, 2017, to have found another remarkable use of ‘graphene’. Tweezers of graphene are more effective at grabbing particles floating in water as compared to other techniques used previously, as graphene is a single atom thick, estimating to under 1 billionth of a meter.
The principle of tweezing nanometer-scale objects is known as dielectrophoresis, which is typically performed by using a pair of metal electrodes, however, electrodes simply lack the “sharpness” to pick up and regulate nanometer-scale objects.
Sang-Hyun Oh, a Sanford P. Bordeau Professor in the University of Minnesota, said, “Graphene is the thinnest material ever discovered, and it is this property that allows us to make these tweezers so efficient. No other material can come close.” He further added, “To build efficient electronic tweezers to grab biomolecules, basically we need to create miniaturized lightning rods and concentrate huge amount of electrical flux on the sharp tip. The edges of graphene are the sharpest lightning rods.”
Graphene tweezers could be used for varied physical and biological applications by tweezing semiconductor nanodiamond particles, DNA molecules, and nanocrystals. This type of trapping requires high voltages, which restricts it to be used in laboratory. However, graphene tweezers can grab small DNA molecules at very low voltage of around 1 Volt, which makes it to be used even in portable devices such as smartphones.
Avijit Barik, a lead author of the study and a student at the University of Minnesota, said, “For this initial demonstration, we have used sophisticated laboratory tools such as a fluorescence microscope and electronic instruments. Our ultimate goal is to miniaturize the entire apparatus into a single microchip that is operated by a mobile phone.”
Moreover, graphene tweezers has the ability to “feel” the trapped biomolecules. In other words, the tweezers can be used as biosensors with great sensitivity that can be demonstrated using simple electronic techniques, which can lead to innovative handheld disease diagnostic system that could be run on a smartphone.
Sang-Hyun Oh said, “It is really exciting to think of atomically sharp tweezers that can be used to trap, sense, and release biomolecules electronically. This could have huge potential for point-of-care diagnostics, which is our ultimate goal for this powerful device.”
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