Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Jailhouse Mock
23 January 2016

Jailhouse Mock

Why go to the trouble of making a microscopic prison out tiny shards of platinum? Well, this prison was built with bacteria in mind – each fence is one million times smaller than the walls of Alcatraz, the famous island prison off the coast of San Francisco. The truth is that bacteria, even the bad ones, don’t wear stripy overalls or huddle together planning a jailbreak – many of the design features here aim simply to showcase the cutting-edge techniques involved in building at such a miniature scale. Researchers fired a beam of electrons into a cloud of metallic particles turning them solid in very precise 3D patterns (such as a prison guard tower). The technique, called focused electron beam induced deposition, may soon be used to create more practical nano-scale devices as 'prisons' for bacteria, or even as 'safe houses' protecting precious drugs travelling to specific targets inside the human body.

Written by John Ankers

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