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Nat Nanotechnol. 2012 Jun 24;7(7):448-52. doi: 10.1038/nnano.2012.99.

Measuring the size and charge of single nanoscale objects in solution using an electrostatic fluidic trap.

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  • 1Laboratory for Physical Chemistry, ETH Zurich, Wolfgang-Pauli Strasse 10, Zurich, Switzerland.


Measuring the size and charge of objects suspended in solution, such as dispersions of colloids or macromolecules, is a significant challenge. Measurements based on light scattering are inherently biased to larger entities, such as aggregates in the sample, because the intensity of light scattered by a small object scales as the sixth power of its size. Techniques that rely on the collective migration of species in response to external fields (electric or hydrodynamic, for example) are beset with difficulties including low accuracy and dispersion-limited resolution. Here, we show that the size and charge of single nanoscale objects can be directly measured with high throughput by analysing their thermal motion in an array of electrostatic traps. The approach, which is analogous to Millikan's oil drop experiment, could in future be used to detect molecular binding events with high sensitivity or carry out dynamic single-charge resolved measurements at the solid/liquid interface.

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