Detecting nanoscale vibrations as signature of life
The existence of life in extreme conditions, in particular in extraterrestrial environments, is certainly one of the most intriguing scientific questions of our time. In this report, we demonstrate the use of an innovative nanoscale motion sensor in life-searching experiments in Earth-bound and interplanetary missions. This technique exploits the sensitivity of nanomechanical oscillators to transduce the small fluctuations that characterize living systems. The intensity of such movements is an indication of the viability of living specimens and conveys information related to their metabolic activity. Here, we show that the nanomotion detector can assess the viability of a vast range of biological specimens and that it could be the perfect complement to conventional chemical life-detection assays. Indeed, by combining chemical and dynamical measurements, we could achieve an unprecedented depth in the characterization of life in extreme and extraterrestrial environments.