World’s most sensitive scales
Posted by ChevScience on June 1, 2012
How do you weigh an atom down to the last proton? With scales accurate enough to measure the smallest unit of mass, aka the yoctogram.
That is 0.000000000000000000000001 grams!
No ordinary scales will do ‐ the tiniest weights are measured using nanotubes, which vibrate at different frequencies depending on the mass of the particles or molecules on them. Until now, 100 yoctograms ‐ or a tenth of a zeptogram ‐ was the smallest mass the most sensitive sensor could detect.
Now scientists have been able to weigh an atom of xenon to the nearest yoctogram, or 10-24 grams. This makes it the first scale capable of detecting a single proton, which weighs in at 1.7 yoctograms. Learn more here.