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Optomechanical detection of vibration modes of a single bacterium

A Publisher Correction to this article was published on 29 April 2020

This article has been updated


Low-frequency vibration modes of biological particles, such as proteins, viruses and bacteria, involve coherent collective vibrations at frequencies in the terahertz and gigahertz domains. These vibration modes carry information on their structure and mechanical properties, which are good indicators of their biological state. In this work, we harnessed a particular regime in the physics of coupled mechanical resonators to directly measure these low-frequency mechanical resonances of a single bacterium. We deposit the bacterium on the surface of an ultrahigh frequency optomechanical disk resonator in ambient conditions. The vibration modes of the disk and bacterium hybridize when their associated frequencies are similar. We developed a general theoretical framework to describe this coupling, which allows us to retrieve the eigenfrequencies and mechanical loss of the bacterium low-frequency vibration modes (quality factor). Additionally, we analysed the effect of hydration on these vibrational modes. This work demonstrates that ultrahigh frequency optomechanical resonators can be used for vibrational spectrometry with the unique capability to obtain information on single biological entities.

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Fig. 1: Fundamental vibration modes of biological particles and optomechanical disk resonators at the gigahertz regime.
Fig. 2: Stochastic response of a sensing damped harmonic oscillator coupled in series to an analyte that exhibits two orthogonal vibration modes, represented as two damped harmonic oscillators.
Fig. 3: Numerical calculation of the mechanical coupling of the bacterium and the disk resonator.
Fig. 4: Effect of hydration on the vibration mode of a bacterium.

Data availability

The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request

Change history

  • 29 April 2020

    An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.


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This work was supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement no. 731868 – VIRUSCAN and European Research Council grants 681275 – LIQUIDMASS- ERC- CoG-2015 and 770933-NOMLI-ERC-CoG 2017, by the Spanish Science, Innovation and Universities Ministry through project CELLTANGLE reference RTI2018-099369-B-I00 and Ramón y Cajal grant RYC-2017-21640 to P.M.K. and by the Comunidad de Madrid (iLUNG B2017/BMD-3884) with support from the EU (FEDER, FSE). We acknowledge J. Mingorance for guidance and for providing the bacterial samples. All the authors acknowledge service from the IMN X-SEM Laboratory, which is funded by MCIU (project CSIC13-4E-1794) and the EU (FEDER, FSE). E.G.S. acknowledges financial support by the Fundación General CSIC (Programa ComFuturo), as well as Marie-Sklodowska Curie Actions (H2020-MSCA-IF-2015) under the NOMBIS project (703354).

Author information




E.G.-S., M.C. and J.T. conceived and designed the experiments, E.G.-S. and O.M. performed the experiments, E.G.-S., J.J.R. and J.T. analysed the data and developed the theory, S.G.-L., O.M. and P.M.K. contributed materials and tools to deposit the bacteria, E.G.-S., A.L. and I.F. designed and fabricated the devices and J.T., M.C. and E.G.-S. co-wrote the paper. All the authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Eduardo Gil-Santos or Javier Tamayo.

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Competing interests

E.G.-S., J.J.R., O.M., M.C. and J.T. are inventors of a related patent (WO/2019/229000) owned by their host institution Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature Nanotechnology thanks Carlo Ricciardi, Yun-Feng Xiao and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Materials and Methods, Figs. 1–4 and refs. 1–7.

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Gil-Santos, E., Ruz, J.J., Malvar, O. et al. Optomechanical detection of vibration modes of a single bacterium. Nat. Nanotechnol. 15, 469–474 (2020).

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