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Silicon Microtweezers for Biophysical Instrumentation at the Molecular Scale
( Former project )

C. Yamahata, D. Collard, H. Fujita, M.A.M. Gijs,

Keywords: Biophysics, Molecular Manipulation, DNA, MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS), bio-MEMS, Silicon, Spatial Fourier Transform

Silicon tips with repeating patterns used for Fourier Transform analysis (SEM picture)

Molecular biophysicists seek to understand how biological systems work through routine strain-stress measurements performed at the molecular scale. In this project, we propose to develop dedicated silicon microtweezers in order to perform force measurements on biomolecular fibres, while using a standard laboratory optical microscope.

The purpose of this project is to develop and test a MEMS (MicroElectroMechanical Systems)-based scientific instrument dedicated to molecular force measurements in a liquid medium.

We propose a new type of silicon microtweezers that enables straightforward stress-strain assays on molecular fibres. A differential capacitive sensor will be used for displacement sensing of the actuated probe; while force sensing will be directly obtained by spatial Fourier transform from video observations recorded under a digital optical microscope.

For biophysical assays, we will conduct our experiments on DNA and several proteins that interact with DNA. Nowadays, optical tweezers, magnetic tweezers and AFM microscopes are the most common systems used for these kinds of measurements. The main advantages of our approach result from the fact that our tool is fully integrated. Thus, our system should enable to undertake these experiments in any laboratory, at a lower cost, more rapidly, and in an automized way. ******

Extract from the presentation given at the SNSF headquarters on August 13, 2008 (Bern, Switzerland).        

Poster presented at the 22nd IEEE International Conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS 2009, Sorrento, Italy).    

3D model of the microtweezers presented at MEMS 2009 (requires Adobe® Reader® version 7 or later).

This research is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Ambizione, Grant No. PZ00P2-121827).

This project is a follow-up to the promising preliminary results obtained during the postdoctoral research of C. Yamahata pursued at the University of Tokyo.
The research will be conducted in close collaboration with researchers from the University of Tokyo.

Last modified: November 20th, 2012