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Scientists have used carbon nanotubes to engineer an astonishingly small electrode, pictured here, that is thin and long enough to record electrical activity within individual neurons.
The single cell resolution, in and of itself, is not unprecedented (we’ve been measuring single-neuron activity with glass pipettes for years, using a Nobel Prize winning technique called the patch clamp method); the use of carbon nanotubes, however, is. Carbon nanotubes are cylinders of the much-touted wondermaterial graphene – one-atom-thick sheets of carbon with remarkable properties. Writes Duke University’s Inho Yoon, first author of the study describing the novel recording device, which is published in last week’s PLoS ONE:
"Although glass electrodes are widely used for intracellular recordings, novel electrodes with superior mechanical and electrical properties are desirable, because they could extend intracellular recording methods to challenging environments, including long term recordings in freely behaving animals."