IBM Research scientists, in collaboration with the Center for Probing the Nanoscale at Stanford University, have demonstrated magnetic resonance imaging with volume resolution 100 million times finer than conventional MRI, according to a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Offering the ability to study complex 3D structures at the nanoscale, this feat represents a significant step forward in tools for molecular biology and nanotechnology.

 Using magnetic resonance force microscopy (MRFM), which relies on detecting ultrasmall magnetic forces, scientists have created a microscope that may one day be powerful enough to unravel the structure and interactions of proteins.

 "This technology stands to revolutionize the way we look at viruses, bacteria, proteins, and other biological elements," said IBM Fellow Mark Dean, vice president of strategy and operations for IBM Research.

 MRFM is also chemically specific, can "see" below surfaces and is non-destructive to sensitive biological materials, unlike electron microscopy.