See Inside January 2008

Advances in Ultrameasurement

Zeptoliter pipettes and quantum rulers give new meaning to the word "small"

Scientists use pipettes when they need to dispense well-defined volumes of liquid. Existing pipettes can deliver fluid volumes as small as an attoliter—a quintillionth, or a billionth of a billionth, of a liter.

Physicists Peter W. Sutter and Eli A. Sutter of Brookhaven National Laboratory have broken that lower limit by constructing a pipette that metes out a droplet measured in a unit that is a thousandth as small—a zeptoliter (a sextillionth of a liter). Such a minute volume can contain as little as 10,000 to as much as a million atoms of metal.

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