Focusing on nanopores with PI’s precision positioning stages

Scientists at the University of Cambridge are using Physik Instrumente’s P-517 3-axis precision nanopositioning system to further advance understanding of the action of molecules during transport through membrane nanopores. Dr Ulrich Keyser, Principle Investigator in the University’s Cavendish Laboratory Biological and Soft Systems group, explained: “We are looking at the transport of single molecules through membranes made using silicon nanotechnology and glass capillaries or biological systems ­– lipid membranes with protein nanochannels.”

“An optical tweezers system focuses a laser beam onto a dielectric particle, coated with the molecule to be transported through the pore; this requires very accurate positioning of the sample relative to the laser tweezers. We chose a PI stage for this application because it is a well known company and we had confidence in its reputation. The P-517 stage offers sub­-nanometre positioning resolution, allowing us to vary the position of the optical tweezers – and therefore of the trapped particle – relative to the nanopore. The stage is well built, very stable and easy to customise – we use it with in-house developed, custom-­written software – and we are now buying more stages to further develop the project.”


PI in brief

Over the last 40 years, Karlsruhe-based Physik Instrumente (PI) has become the leading manufacturer of nanopositioning systems and products based on piezo technology. PI is a private company with more than 500 employees worldwide and a flexible, vertically integrated organization, enabling it to fulfil almost any request in the precision positioning technology field. All PI’s key technologies are developed in-house – including precision mechanics and electronics, position sensors and piezo ceramics or actuators – meaning that every phase,  from design to shipment, can be guaranteed. Piezo ceramics and actuators are produced by PI Ceramic, a subsidiary of PI, and the Company has its own sales and service offices in all major markets. PI also maintains testing devices for nanometrology on three continents, and both PI Shanghai and PI USA have additional development and manufacturing resources, allowing rapid local response to specific customer needs.

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