IBM, working with scientists at Stanford University's Centre for Probing the Nanoscale, has developed an magnetic resonance imaging microscope with a resolution 100 million times finer than current MRI systems.
The technology allows researchers to examine complex 3D structures at the nanoscale and marks an advance in tools for molecular biology and nanotechnology, IBM said in a statement on Monday. (A nanometre is one billionth of a metre.)
"This technology stands to revolutionise the way we look at viruses, bacteria, proteins and other biological elements," said Mark Dean, vice president of strategy and operations at IBM Research.
It could also have a bearing on research into materials at the nanoscale, and could be used to look at integrated circuits, the company said.
The new MRI technology is based on magnetic resonance force microscopy (MRFM), which relies on detecting very small magnetic forces. The imaging technique "can 'see' below surfaces and, unlike electron microscopy, is non-destructive to sensitive biological materials", IBM said. The company has posted a video of its new microscope on YouTube.
IBM's microscope can be used for nanoscale MRI, as shown here where a virus is attached to the tip of silicon cantilever