Light from Within: Sensing Weak Strains and FemtoNewton Forces in Single Molecules

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Abstract

Weak mechanical forces acting on molecules are in control of a wide variety of (bio)chemical and physical processes. The spatially inhomogeneous nature of these forces has a profound effect on the structure and mechanics of soft and biological materials. Yet, the lack of methods for probing sub-picoNewton forces at high resolution leaves our understanding of these effects incomplete. Here, we solve this challenge by engineering semiconducting polymers to act as ultraweak force sensors. Combining simulations, chemical synthesis, and single-molecule fluorescence spectroscopy, we demonstrate force sensing in single molecules. We achieve grayscale force detection, at a resolution as low as 300 fN, down to the molecular scale. Our approach opens the way to illuminating and quantifying molecular mechanics with unprecedented resolution. Mechanical stress at the molecular scale plays a crucial role in a wide variety of (bio)chemical processes, ranging from the sensing of the mechanical environment by cells to the failure of high-tech engineering materials. Although we know these molecular forces exist, making them visible and quantifying them at the molecular scale have remained impossible to date. This lack of direct insight at the molecular level has precluded a deeper understanding of how mechanics govern these problems. Here, we demonstrate quantitative force sensing in individual molecules at an unprecedented force resolution. Our approach is completely non-invasive and thus opens the way to visualizing and quantifying mechanical stresses in molecular materials and complex biological scenarios. Weak forces acting on molecules govern a vast range of physical, chemical, and biological phenomena. To date, it has not been possible to measure these forces directly because force-sensing methods at the nanoscale have lacked the resolution to resolve ultraweak forces at the scale of single molecules deep within complex materials. Here, we solve this challenge by demonstrating single-molecule force sensing with engineered light-emitting molecules and reporting forces as small as one trillionth of a Newton.
LanguageEnglish
Pages269-284
JournalChem
Volume4
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2018

Fingerprint

Chemical Phenomena
Mechanics
Physical Phenomena
Mechanical Stress
Light
Molecules
mechanics
Biological Phenomena
Fluorescence Spectrometry
Polymers
engineering
fluorescence spectroscopy
Semiconducting polymers
polymer
Molecular mechanics
Fluorescence spectroscopy
sensor
Biological materials
material
simulation

Keywords

  • conjugated polymers
  • mechanochromism
  • molecular force sensors
  • single-molecule spectroscopy

Cite this

@article{d8aed7490b8442c99310bb990d09021c,
title = "Light from Within: Sensing Weak Strains and FemtoNewton Forces in Single Molecules",
abstract = "Weak mechanical forces acting on molecules are in control of a wide variety of (bio)chemical and physical processes. The spatially inhomogeneous nature of these forces has a profound effect on the structure and mechanics of soft and biological materials. Yet, the lack of methods for probing sub-picoNewton forces at high resolution leaves our understanding of these effects incomplete. Here, we solve this challenge by engineering semiconducting polymers to act as ultraweak force sensors. Combining simulations, chemical synthesis, and single-molecule fluorescence spectroscopy, we demonstrate force sensing in single molecules. We achieve grayscale force detection, at a resolution as low as 300 fN, down to the molecular scale. Our approach opens the way to illuminating and quantifying molecular mechanics with unprecedented resolution. Mechanical stress at the molecular scale plays a crucial role in a wide variety of (bio)chemical processes, ranging from the sensing of the mechanical environment by cells to the failure of high-tech engineering materials. Although we know these molecular forces exist, making them visible and quantifying them at the molecular scale have remained impossible to date. This lack of direct insight at the molecular level has precluded a deeper understanding of how mechanics govern these problems. Here, we demonstrate quantitative force sensing in individual molecules at an unprecedented force resolution. Our approach is completely non-invasive and thus opens the way to visualizing and quantifying mechanical stresses in molecular materials and complex biological scenarios. Weak forces acting on molecules govern a vast range of physical, chemical, and biological phenomena. To date, it has not been possible to measure these forces directly because force-sensing methods at the nanoscale have lacked the resolution to resolve ultraweak forces at the scale of single molecules deep within complex materials. Here, we solve this challenge by demonstrating single-molecule force sensing with engineered light-emitting molecules and reporting forces as small as one trillionth of a Newton.",
keywords = "conjugated polymers, mechanochromism, molecular force sensors, single-molecule spectroscopy",
author = "{van de Laar}, Ties and Hent Schuurman and {van der Scheer}, Pieter and {Maarten van Doorn}, Jan and {van der Gucht}, Jasper and Joris Sprakel",
year = "2018",
month = "2",
day = "8",
doi = "10.1016/j.chempr.2017.12.016",
language = "English",
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pages = "269--284",
journal = "Chem",
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AU - van de Laar, Ties

AU - Schuurman, Hent

AU - van der Scheer, Pieter

AU - Maarten van Doorn, Jan

AU - van der Gucht, Jasper

AU - Sprakel, Joris

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N2 - Weak mechanical forces acting on molecules are in control of a wide variety of (bio)chemical and physical processes. The spatially inhomogeneous nature of these forces has a profound effect on the structure and mechanics of soft and biological materials. Yet, the lack of methods for probing sub-picoNewton forces at high resolution leaves our understanding of these effects incomplete. Here, we solve this challenge by engineering semiconducting polymers to act as ultraweak force sensors. Combining simulations, chemical synthesis, and single-molecule fluorescence spectroscopy, we demonstrate force sensing in single molecules. We achieve grayscale force detection, at a resolution as low as 300 fN, down to the molecular scale. Our approach opens the way to illuminating and quantifying molecular mechanics with unprecedented resolution. Mechanical stress at the molecular scale plays a crucial role in a wide variety of (bio)chemical processes, ranging from the sensing of the mechanical environment by cells to the failure of high-tech engineering materials. Although we know these molecular forces exist, making them visible and quantifying them at the molecular scale have remained impossible to date. This lack of direct insight at the molecular level has precluded a deeper understanding of how mechanics govern these problems. Here, we demonstrate quantitative force sensing in individual molecules at an unprecedented force resolution. Our approach is completely non-invasive and thus opens the way to visualizing and quantifying mechanical stresses in molecular materials and complex biological scenarios. Weak forces acting on molecules govern a vast range of physical, chemical, and biological phenomena. To date, it has not been possible to measure these forces directly because force-sensing methods at the nanoscale have lacked the resolution to resolve ultraweak forces at the scale of single molecules deep within complex materials. Here, we solve this challenge by demonstrating single-molecule force sensing with engineered light-emitting molecules and reporting forces as small as one trillionth of a Newton.

AB - Weak mechanical forces acting on molecules are in control of a wide variety of (bio)chemical and physical processes. The spatially inhomogeneous nature of these forces has a profound effect on the structure and mechanics of soft and biological materials. Yet, the lack of methods for probing sub-picoNewton forces at high resolution leaves our understanding of these effects incomplete. Here, we solve this challenge by engineering semiconducting polymers to act as ultraweak force sensors. Combining simulations, chemical synthesis, and single-molecule fluorescence spectroscopy, we demonstrate force sensing in single molecules. We achieve grayscale force detection, at a resolution as low as 300 fN, down to the molecular scale. Our approach opens the way to illuminating and quantifying molecular mechanics with unprecedented resolution. Mechanical stress at the molecular scale plays a crucial role in a wide variety of (bio)chemical processes, ranging from the sensing of the mechanical environment by cells to the failure of high-tech engineering materials. Although we know these molecular forces exist, making them visible and quantifying them at the molecular scale have remained impossible to date. This lack of direct insight at the molecular level has precluded a deeper understanding of how mechanics govern these problems. Here, we demonstrate quantitative force sensing in individual molecules at an unprecedented force resolution. Our approach is completely non-invasive and thus opens the way to visualizing and quantifying mechanical stresses in molecular materials and complex biological scenarios. Weak forces acting on molecules govern a vast range of physical, chemical, and biological phenomena. To date, it has not been possible to measure these forces directly because force-sensing methods at the nanoscale have lacked the resolution to resolve ultraweak forces at the scale of single molecules deep within complex materials. Here, we solve this challenge by demonstrating single-molecule force sensing with engineered light-emitting molecules and reporting forces as small as one trillionth of a Newton.

KW - conjugated polymers

KW - mechanochromism

KW - molecular force sensors

KW - single-molecule spectroscopy

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