A thin wire cuts through cheese more easily and cleanly than a flat blade does. Now, researchers have built a microscopic version of a cheese slicer—with a carbon nanotube for a wire—that's aimed at making improved slices of frozen cells.
Biologists have long used diamond blades, known as microtomes, to section flash-frozen cells into thin slices in preparation for microscopic scrutiny. However, such a wedgelike blade bends the top of the slice as it cuts, often creating cracks in the sample, says mechanical engineer Paul S. Rice of the Boulder campuses of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Colorado.
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