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July 16th, 2007
The ability to separate single molecules by electrophoresis is fast becoming a reality, following the latest work by Swedish and French chemists into the transport mechanisms that hold sway in tiny lipid nanotubes. By monitoring the migration of different size nanoparticles at different electric potentials, the chemists discovered that these mechanisms are heavily dependent on the interaction between the solid nanoparticles and the soft nanotube walls.
In 2005, a team of chemists from Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg, and the Institut Curie, Paris, including Björn Åkerman from Chalmers, showed that they could separate individual DNA strands in a lipid nanotube with a radius of only 150nm. To produce this nanotube, the chemists developed a technique in which they first create a fluid-filled unilamellar liposome (essentially a bubble of fat with a single bilayer membrane). Next, they insert two electrodes into opposite sides of the liposome and then withdraw one of the electrodes, pulling out a 125μm-long lipid nanotube.
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