On the path to molecular imaging MRI

Ibm researchers are making strides to their ultimate goal of viewing a protein’s structure in 3-D. The researchers would need to precisely detect the locations of single hydrogen atoms in the protein. For this, the researchers would have to detect the magnetism, or spin, of a single nucleus, a resolution of about 0.1 nanometers. This is a challenge, says Chris Hammel, a physicist who does magnetic resonance research at Ohio State University.

Balancing act: In a new magnetic resonance imaging technique, researchers at IBM use a silicon cantilever to image a tiny sample of calcium fluoride with a resolution of 90 nanometers. The calcium fluoride is deposited on the tip of the cantilever’s thick free end. Credit: IBM Research

Images can be made of calcium-fluoride samples on the cantilever pillars and the distance between the pillars with a resolution of 90 nanometers. The volume of the calcium fluoride is 60,000 times smaller than the volume that conventional MRI microscopy can detect.