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Research Instrument to Study Molecular Events

Q-Sense AB : 14 November, 2006  (Technical Article)
A new generation of research instruments for characterising molecular events at surfaces has been launched by Q-Sense AB. The E4 has been designed for real-time measurements of surface reactions and interactions and is based on the company's proprietary technology, Quartz Crystal Microbalance with Dissipation monitoring.
The instrument is intended for a broad range of research applications to characterise molecular binding events on surfaces of all kinds. Examples include the study of material properties, thin film technology, functionalised surfaces, electrochemistry, biomaterials, drug development, biocompatibility and biofouling. As such, it can support the development and evaluation of biomaterials with specific properties, sensor platforms for bio recognition studies, research on the interaction between molecules such as protein interaction, study the build-up of polyelectrolyte multilayers for example and, fundamental research on thin films / properties of surfaces.

Based on Proven Technology
The Q-Sense E4 is based on QCM-D technique pioneered by Q-Sense that can measure the mass of thin surface bound molecular layers and simultaneously provide information about their structural (viscoelastic) properties. The instrument has been designed for real-time, label free, in situ measurements of molecular interaction and adsorption to surfaces. 'For all applications, the E4 can track events in real time; be used with a large selection of substrate materials, provide information about structural changes, measure the mass change and operate with non-labelled molecules,' says Michael Rodal, head of R&D. When compared to its existing instruments, Q-Sense has taken the opportunity to introduce a number of technical advancements including upgraded electronics for faster data acquisition and higher sensitivity as well as a new measurement chamber design to increase the flexibility in the type of measurements that can be carried out.

Heart of quartz
QCM-D, is a patented technique that senses variations to the natural resonance characteristics of a thin slice of quartz when changes occur at its surface such as protein adsorption. The heart of QCM-D is a sensor, a thin disc of crystalline quartz sandwiched between two electrodes. Any layer of molecules forming on the surface of the crystal creates subtle changes to the frequency of oscillation and its duration. The differences in the oscillation characteristics of the sensor are tracked as changes to the surface occur and measured as changes in resonance frequency and dissipation. A change in frequency means a mass change on the surface (ng/cm2 sensitivity), simultaneously the dissipation gives information about the structural (viscoelastic properties) properties of adsorbing molecular layers; a phase transition or conformational change in adsorbed molecular layers will change the dissipation of the quartz crystal. Q-Sense has a range of instrumentation and software tools to allow sophisticated interpretation of the sensing data. Q-Sense has created methods to measure and identify the essential nature of layer that has formed, giving up its mass, thickness and viscoelastic properties. In addition, kinetics and affinity of reactions may be calculated. Typical real time measurements include:

- How molecules bind to different surfaces when it comes to mass and structure of adsorbed layers (adsorption, adhesion);
- How immobilised molecules interact with the next layer of molecules. (interaction);
- How immobilised thin films change due to changes in the buffer or when exposed to liquid or solvents (swelling, hydration) and,
- How immobilised thin films (polymers, metals) are degraded, dissolved or etched.

Technology Pioneer
Q-Sense is the leading specialist in QCM-D technology, and was the first company set up specifically to develop the technique. It was founded in 1996 by researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden and the company continues to work closely with researchers at leading universities throughout the world to ensure that QCM-D is at the forefront of developments. Today, the company has a world-wide distributor network, instruments used in more than 20 countries and a subsidiary in the U.S. It is part of Biolin AB, a group which supports the development of innovation in science.
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