Héctor Corte-Leon, a researcher involved in EMRP project EXL04 SpinCal, has won the December 2015 NanoART competition for an image of a deposition pattern of magnetic particles.
The Fondation Nanosciences' monthly competition highlights some of the best images produced by early career researchers in nanotechnology. Héctor, who studies at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and Royal Holloway, University of London in the UK, is researching magnetic nanosensors capable of detecting single particles or molecules for life science applications.
Héctor's winning image is a false colour picture of the pattern that magnetic particles formed after they were deposited from an aqueous solution onto a solid substrate. For biosensing applications, it is essential to separate the particles, but, in addition to the difficulties posed by their tiny size (the particles in the image are 1 μm in diameter), the coating of the particles causes them to unhelpfully clump together.
Héctor has been trialling different methods of wet casting to identify the ones that best isolate individual magnetic particles. Once isolated, a single particle is attached to the tip of an atomic force microscope probe, and used to test and compare the sensitivity of different nanosensors.
The ultimate goal of the research is to develop magnetic nanostructures on silicon chips that can be used to identify small concentrations of specific molecules. Particles can be attached to other molecules, like proteins, and so could be used by the chips to diagnose health conditions based on the proteins that particles capture in a sample.
In addition to celebrating the work of early career scientists, the NanoART competition aims to promote public engagement with nanoscience. "I take these images because I love what I do, and with them I can share it with other people," explains Héctor.
This work is a collaboration between NPL, PTB in Germany, INRIM in Italy and a number of universities and institutions including Royal Holloway, the University of Surrey, Institut Neél, and the University of Cambridge, and is partially supported by EMRP project 'Spintronics and spin-caloritronics in magnetic nanosystems', which is investigating nanoscale magnetic devices to improve our fundamental understanding of spintronics.
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