Shirin Mesbah Oskui, Heran C. Bhakta, Graciel Diamante, Huinan Liu, Daniel Schlenk, and William H. Grover. PLOS ONE 12 (4): e0174068 (2017). PDF

Measurements of an object’s fundamental physical properties like mass, volume, and density can offer valuable insights into the composition and state of the object. However, many important biological samples reside in a liquid environment where it is difficult to accurately measure their physical properties. We show that by using a simple piece of glass tubing and some inexpensive off-the-shelf electronics, we can create a sensor that can measure the mass, volume, and density of microgram-sized biological samples in their native liquid environment. As a proof-of-concept, we use this sensor to measure mass changes in zebrafish embryos reacting to toxicant exposure, density changes in seeds undergoing rehydration and germination, and degradation rates of biomaterials used in medical implants. Since all objects have these physical properties, this sensor has immediate applications in a wide variety of different fields including developmental biology, toxicology, materials science, plant science, and many others.