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Mind the (nano) gap

Hands-on at the exhibit

  • Experiment with plasma balls to understand nanogap sensing with lasers
  • Mimic the sensing of molecules through a nanopore using our air tower
  • Hear (literally) how we sense molecules via mass and charge with an active nano-membrane

Find out more

Detecting bio-molecules from their unique signatures as they interact with nanoscale gaps

In healthcare it is critical to be able to measure traces of molecules with great accuracy - to diagnose or monitor the progression of diseases, check for allergens in food, or for drug testing. At this exhibit you will find out about the biosensors of the future that use nanoscale techniques to detect molecules in extremely small quantities.

Many interesting and important biological molecules like DNA and proteins are very small, and scientists are constantly improving our ability to see and measure them. But to really progress, we need vastly improved, affordable detection technologies to measure the millions of times rarer signalling molecules that indicate our health. By pulling molecules of interest into the small space or nanogap between our tiny sensor components, they now become visible to our instruments. New techniques are emerging to do this using nanopores, atomically thin membranes, and tiny gaps between gold nanostructures that are just billionths of a metre across.

This latest NanoScience research from the University of Cambridge can be used to recognise traces of molecules in urine. This allows easy, real-time health monitoring or drug testing in hospitals and even has applications for your home, such as the ‘intelligent toilet’, on show during the exhibition.

Find out more about NanoDTC, the NanoPhotonics Centre, the Hofmann Group and the Keyser Lab.

Presented by the University of Cambridge and NanoDTC.