Bangalore: IBM announced that its researchers have demonstrated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to visualise nanoscale objects.
“This research brings us one step closer in our quest to build a microscope that we hope can eventually see atoms in three dimensions,” Daniel Dias, director, IBM India Research Laboratory said on 26 April.
“This would enable scientists to study atomic structure of molecules such as proteins, which would represent a huge breakthrough in structural molecular biology”, he said. This technique led by IBM’s Almaden Research Centre brings MRI capability to the nanoscale level for the first time.
“Using magnetic resonance force microscopy (MFRM), IBM researchers have demonstrated two-dimensional imaging of objects as small as 90 nanometres, a key advancement on the path of 3D imaging at the atomic scale,” he said.
Such imaging could ultimately provide a better understanding of how proteins function, which in turn may lead to more efficient drug discovery and development, he added.
MFRM offers imaging sensitivity that is 60,000 times better than the current MRI technology. It uses what is known as force detection to overcome the sensitivity limitations of conventional MRI to view structures that would otherwise be too small to be detected.
To develop this, the research team developed specialised magnetic strips for their microscope, optimising their ability to manipulate and detect the very weak magnetism of atomic nuclei.