• PNAS Streamlines Submission
  • Sign-up for PNAS eTOC Alerts

Spin microscopy's heritage, achievements, and prospects

  1. John A. Sidles,1
  1. Quantum Systems Engineering Laboratory, School of Medicine, and College of Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195

Achieving 3-dimensional, in-depth, atomic-resolution biological microscopy of undenatured specimens is one of the oldest dreams of science, and for good reason: it unites the thrilling prospect of opening vast new scientific frontiers with cutting-edge technical challenges from every domain of mathematics, science, and engineering.

In a recent issue of PNAS, a team from IBM Research led by Dan Rugar and John Mamin has taken us a giant step closer to this goal (1) by using magnetic resonance force microscopy (MRFM) to obtain 3-dimensional images of tobacco mosaic viruses having voxel resolution down to ≈4 nm. Our comments on the IBM experiment will be modeled on a 1946 letter from John von Neumann to Norbert Wiener (,2), in which von Neumann discusses, at considerable length, both the practical problem of achieving atomic-resolution biological microscopy and the potential applications of this capability. Von Neumann's letter invites Wiener to consider whether atomic-resolution biological microscopy might be achieved “by developments of which we can already foresee the character, the caliber, and the duration. And are the latter two not excessive and impractical?”

We adopt von Neumann's question as this commentary's focus, and we seek to describe paths by which mathematicians, scientists, and engineers—of almost every discipline—can contribute to, or benefit from, this centuries-old quest.

We begin by conceiving of spin microscopy in terms of communication: we regard sample spins as being modulated by Alice so as to create a signal force f(t) that is observed by Bob (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1.

Spin microscopy continues a heritage that began with Robert Hooke's 1667 vision that (3) “by the help of microscopes, there is nothing so small, as to escape our inquiry” (Left). The imaging achievements of the IBM Research Division (Center) extend and strengthen this heritage. These achievements lead us to conceive of microscopy …

1E-mail: sidles{at}u.washington.edu

Online Impact

    Related Article

                                                          1. 956115858 2018-01-22
                                                          2. 730379857 2018-01-22
                                                          3. 346624856 2018-01-22
                                                          4. 201609855 2018-01-22
                                                          5. 72549854 2018-01-21
                                                          6. 795928853 2018-01-21
                                                          7. 752345852 2018-01-21
                                                          8. 566508851 2018-01-21
                                                          9. 615722850 2018-01-21
                                                          10. 689612849 2018-01-21
                                                          11. 846903848 2018-01-21
                                                          12. 674896847 2018-01-21
                                                          13. 11197846 2018-01-21
                                                          14. 986896845 2018-01-21
                                                          15. 667601844 2018-01-21
                                                          16. 385442843 2018-01-21
                                                          17. 496686842 2018-01-21
                                                          18. 915288841 2018-01-21
                                                          19. 885256840 2018-01-21
                                                          20. 726268839 2018-01-21