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Detecting extraterrestrial life using mechanical nanosensors

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Posted December 30, 2014

Looking for life on other planets is not straightforward. It usually relies on chemical detection, which might be limited or even completely irrelevant to alien biology. On the other hand, motion is a trait of all life, and can be used to identify microorganisms without any need of chemical foreknowledge. EPFL scientists have now developed an extremely sensitive yet simple motion detector that can be built easily by adapting already-existent technology. The system has proven accurate with detecting bacteria, yeast, and even cancer cells, and is considered for the rapid testing of drugs and even the detection of extraterrestrial life. The work is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Giovanni Dietler, Sandor Kasas and Giovanni Longo at EPFL have developed a motion detector that uses a nano-sized cantilever to detect motion. A cantilever is essentially a beam that is anchored only at one end, with the other end bearing a load. The cantilever design is often used with bridges and buildings, but here it is implemented on the micrometer scale, and about 500 bacteria can be deposited on it.

Read more at: Phys.org

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