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Motion technology to detect extraterrestrials

New device uses a nano-sized cantilever to detect motion

London: Scientists have developed a motion detector to isolate and detect vibrating living cells, which can be used to find life in other planets.

Alien detection
Representation Pic/Thinkstock

“The system has the benefit of being completely chemistry-free. This means that it can be used anywhere — in drug testing or even in the search for extraterrestrial life,” said Giovanni Dietler, one of the researchers from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL).

The new device 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 idea comes from the technology behind an existing microscope, the atomic force microscope. This powerful microscope uses a cantilever to produce pictures of the atoms on a surface. In the new device, a bacterium attaches to the cantilever. If the bacterium is alive, it inevitably moves in some way.

That motion also moves the much smaller and sensitive cantilever and is captured by the readout laser as a series of vibrations. The signal is taken as a sign of life. The team successfully tested their novel system with isolated bacteria, yeast, mouse and human cells.

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