IBM microscope 100 million times stronger than MRI

By Daniel Terdiman
IBM Research early this week announced that it has built a new nanoscale microscope capable of creating images with 100 million times finer resolution than existing MRI technology.

The project was made possible through a process called magnetic resonance force microscopy, which, according to IBM, detects "ultra-small magnetic forces." The technique is said to be able to "see" beneath surfaces and be safe for sensitive biological materials.

IBM said that it ran a test using the new system that established for the first time, magnetic resonance imaging on nanometer-scale items. By running it on a tobacco mosaic virus that is 18 nanometers across--18 billionths of a meter--the new system achieved resolution down to four nanometers.

According to IBM Research, this is an image of the most important features of a magnetic resonance force microscope: "An ultrasensitive silicon cantilever detects the tiny magnetic force between a nanoscale magnetic tip--green--and the hydrogen nuclei present in the virus particles placed at the end of the cantilever--blue, seen in the reflection.

Nanoscale magnetic resonance imaging is achieved by manipulating the hydrogen nuclei in the sample with a radiofrequency magnetic field generated by a "microwire"--red. A sensitivity improvement of 100 million is achieved compared to conventional magnetic resonance imaging."

(link to YouTube video)