Surfaces of thin oxide ﬁlms were investigated by means of a dual mode NC-AFM/STM. Apart from imaging the surface termination by NC-AFM with atomic resolution, point defects in magnesium oxide on Ag(001) and line defects in aluminum oxide on NiAl(110), respectively, were thoroughly studied. The contact potential was determined by Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM) and the electronic structure by scanning tunneling spectroscopy (STS). On magnesium oxide, different color centers, i.e., F0, F+, F2+ and divacancies, have different effects on the contact potential. These differences enabled classiﬁcation and unambiguous differentiation by KPFM. True atomic resolution shows the topography at line defects in aluminum oxide. At these domain boundaries, STS and KPFM verify F2+-like centers, which have been predicted by density functional theory calculations. Thus, by determining the contact potential and the electronic structure with a spatial resolution in the nanometer range, NC-AFM and STM can be successfully applied on thin oxide ﬁlms beyond imaging the topography of the surface atoms.
aluminum oxide; charge state; contact potential; defects; domain boundaries; dynamic force microscopy; frequency modulation atomic force microscopy; Kelvin probe force microscopy; magnesium oxide; non-contact atomic force microscopy; scanning tunneling microscopy; thin ﬁlms; work function
The adsorption on KBr(001) of a specially designed molecule, consisting of a flat aromatic triphenylene core equipped with six flexible propyl chains ending with polar cyano groups, is investigated by using atomic force microscopy in the noncontact mode (NC-AFM) coupled to Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM) in ultrahigh vacuum at room temperature. Two types of monolayers are identified, one in which the molecules lie flat on the surface (MLh) and another in which they stand approximately upright (MLv). The Kelvin voltage on these two structures is negatively shifted relative to that of the clean KBr surface, revealing the presence of surface dipoles with a component pointing along the normal to the surface. These findings are interpreted with the help of numerical simulations. It is shown that the surface–molecule interaction is dominated by the electrostatic interaction of the cyano groups with the K+ ions of the substrate. The molecule is strongly adsorbed in the MLh structure with an adsorption energy of 1.8 eV. In the MLv layer, the molecules form π-stacked rows aligned along the polar directions of the KBr surface. In these rows, the molecules are less strongly bound to the substrate, but the structure is stabilized by the strong intermolecular interaction due to π-stacking.
atomic force microscopy; insulating surfaces; Kelvin force probe microscopy; molecular adsorption
Thiol self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) are widely used in many nano- and bio-technology applications. We report a new approach to create and characterize a thiol SAMs micropattern with alternating charges on a flat gold-coated substrate using atomic force microscopy (AFM) and Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM). We produced SAMs-patterns made of alternating positively charged, negatively charged, and hydrophobic-terminated thiols by an automated AFM-assisted manipulation, or nanografting. We show that these thiol patterns possess only small topographical differences as revealed by AFM, and distinguished differences in surface potential (20-50 mV), revealed by KPFM. The pattern can be helpful in the development of biosensor technologies, specifically for selective binding of biomolecules based on charge and hydrophobicity, and serve as a model for creating surfaces with quantified alternating surface potential distribution.
We compare the three most commonly used scanning probe techniques to obtain a reliable value of the work function in graphene domains of different thickness. The surface potential (SP) of graphene is directly measured in Hall bar geometry via a combination of electrical functional microscopy and spectroscopy techniques, which enables calibrated work function measurements of graphene domains in ambient conditions with values Φ1LG ~4.55 ± 0.02 eV and Φ2LG ~ 4.44 ± 0.02 eV for single- and bi-layer, respectively. We demonstrate that frequency-modulated Kelvin probe force microscopy (FM-KPFM) provides more accurate measurement of the SP than amplitude-modulated (AM)-KPFM. The discrepancy between experimental results obtained by different techniques is discussed. In addition, we use FM-KPFM for contactless measurements of the specific components of the device resistance. We show a strong non-Ohmic behavior of the electrode-graphene contact resistance and extract the graphene channel resistivity.
Atomic force microscopy (AFM) in contact mode and tapping mode is employed for high resolution studies of soft organic molecules (fetal bovine serum proteins) on hard inorganic diamond substrates in solution and air. Various effects in morphology and phase measurements related to the cantilever spring constant, amplitude of tip oscillations, surface approach, tip shape and condition are demonstrated and discussed based on the proposed schematic models. We show that both diamond and proteins can be mechanically modified by Si AFM cantilever. We propose how to choose suitable cantilever type, optimize scanning parameters, recognize and minimize various artifacts, and obtain reliable AFM data both in solution and in air to reveal microscopic characteristics of protein-diamond interfaces. We also suggest that monocrystalline diamond is well defined substrate that can be applicable for fundamental studies of molecules on surfaces in general.
The plasma membrane of a cell not only works as a physical barrier but also mediates the signal relay between the extracellular milieu and the cell interior. Various stimulants may cause the redistribution of molecules, like lipids, proteins, and polysaccharides, on the plasma membrane and change the surface potential (Φs). In this study, the Φss of PC12 cell plasma membranes were measured by atomic force microscopy in Kelvin probe mode (KPFM). The skewness values of the Φss distribution histogram were found to be mostly negative, and the incorporation of negatively charged phosphatidylserine shifted the average skewness values to positive. After being treated with H2O2, dopamine, or Zn2+, phosphatidylserine was found to be translocated to the membrane outer leaflet and the averaged skewness values were changed to positive values. These results demonstrated that KPFM can be used to monitor cell physiology status in response to various stimulants with high spatial resolution.
Intermodulation atomic force microscopy (ImAFM) is a mode of dynamic atomic force microscopy that probes the nonlinear tip–surface force by measurement of the mixing of multiple modes in a frequency comb. A high-quality factor cantilever resonance and a suitable drive comb will result in tip motion described by a narrow-band frequency comb. We show, by a separation of time scales, that such motion is equivalent to rapid oscillations at the cantilever resonance with a slow amplitude and phase or frequency modulation. With this time-domain perspective, we analyze single oscillation cycles in ImAFM to extract the Fourier components of the tip–surface force that are in-phase with the tip motion (F
I) and quadrature to the motion (F
Q). Traditionally, these force components have been considered as a function of the static-probe height only. Here we show that F
I and F
Q actually depend on both static-probe height and oscillation amplitude. We demonstrate on simulated data how to reconstruct the amplitude dependence of F
I and F
Q from a single ImAFM measurement. Furthermore, we introduce ImAFM approach measurements with which we reconstruct the full amplitude and probe-height dependence of the force components F
I and F
Q, providing deeper insight into the tip–surface interaction. We demonstrate the capabilities of ImAFM approach measurements on a polystyrene polymer surface.
atomic force microscopy; AFM; frequency combs; force spectroscopy; high-quality-factor resonators; intermodulation; multifrequency
Micro-cantilever arrays with different dimensions are fabricated by micromachining technique onto silicon <1 0 0> substrate. These sputtered Gold-Coated micro-cantilevers were later surface functionalized. Scanning Electron Microscopy, Atomic Force Microscopy and Optical SWLI using LASER probe are employed to characterize the morphology and image measurement of the micro-cantilever arrays, respectively. Compared with conventional AFM and SPM measurement technique, the proposed method has demonstrated sufficient flexibility and reliability. The experimental results have been analyzed and presented in this paper for MEMS Micro-cantilevers. The scanning White Light Interferometry based two point high resolution optical method is presented for characterizing Micro-cantilevers and other MEMS micro-structures. The repeatable error and the repeatable precision produced in the proposed image measurement method is nanometre confirmable. In this piece of work, we investigate the micro-structure fabrication and image measurement of Length, Width and Step-Height of micro-cantilever arrays fabricated using bulk micromachining technique onto Silicon <100> substrate.
Scanning Electron Microscopy; Atomic Force Microscopy; Micro-cantilever; Optics; Image Measurement; Silicon (100), Scanning White Light Interferometry
Atomic force microscopy1 (AFM) is a powerful tool for analysing the shapes of individual molecules and the forces acting on them. AFM-based force spectroscopy provides insights into the structural and energetic dynamics2-4 of biomolecules by probing the interactions within individual molecules5,6, or between a surface-bound molecule and a cantilever that carries a complementary binding partner7-9. Here, we show that an AFM cantilever with an antibody tether can measure the distances between 5-methylcytidine bases in individual DNA strands with a resolution of 4 Å, thereby revealing the DNA methylation pattern, which has an important role in the epigenetic control of gene expression. The antibody is able to bind two 5-methylcytidine bases of a surface-immobilized DNA strand, and retracting the cantilever results in a unique rupture signature reflecting the spacing between two tagged bases. This nanomechanical approach might also allow related chemical patterns to be retrieved from biopolymers at the single-molecule level.
Atomic force microscopy (AFM) has become a powerful tool for measuring material properties in biology and imposing mechanical boundary conditions on samples from single molecules to cells and tissues. Constant force or constant height can be maintained in an AFM experiment through feedback control of cantilever deflection, known respectively as a ‘force clamp’ or ‘position clamp’. However, stiffness, the third variable in the Hookean relation F = kx that describes AFM cantilever deflection, has not been dynamically controllable in the same way. Here we present and demonstrate a ‘stiffness clamp’ that can vary the apparent stiffness of an AFM cantilever. This method, employable on any AFM system by modifying feedback control of the cantilever, allows rapid and reversible tuning of the stiffness exposed to the sample in a way that can decouple the role of stiffness from force and deformation. We demonstrated the AFM stiffness clamp on two different samples: a contracting fibroblast cell and an expanding polyacrylamide hydrogel. We found that the fibroblast, a cell type that secretes and organizes the extracellular matrix, exhibited a rapid, sub-second change in traction rate (dF/dt) and contraction velocity (dx/dt) in response to step changes in stiffness between 1–100 nN/µm. This response was independent of the absolute contractile force and cell height, demonstrating that cells can react directly to changes in stiffness alone. In contrast, the hydrogel used in our experiment maintained a constant expansion velocity (dx/dt) over this range of stiffness, while the traction rate (dF/dt) changed with stiffness, showing that passive materials can also behave differently in different stiffness environments. The AFM stiffness clamp presented here, which is applicable to mechanical measurements on both biological and non-biological samples, may be used to investigate cellular mechanotransduction under a wide range of controlled mechanical boundary conditions.
Twisted few layer graphene (FLG) is highly attractive from an application point of view, due to its extraordinary electronic properties. In order to study its properties, we demonstrate and discuss three different routes to in situ create and identify (twisted) FLG. Single layer graphene (SLG) sheets mechanically exfoliated under ambient conditions on 6H-SiC(0001) are modified by (i) swift heavy ion (SHI) irradiation, (ii) by a force microscope tip and (iii) by severe heating. The resulting surface topography and the surface potential are investigated with non-contact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM) and Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM). SHI irradiation results in rupture of the SLG sheets, thereby creating foldings and bilayer graphene (BLG). Applying the other modification methods creates enlarged (twisted) graphene foldings that show rupture along preferential edges of zigzag and armchair type. Peeling at a folding over an edge different from a low index crystallographic direction can result in twisted BLG, showing a similar height as Bernal (or AA-stacked) BLG in NC-AFM images. The rotational stacking can be identified by a significant contrast in the local contact potential difference (LCPD) measured by KPFM.
graphene; Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM), local contact potential difference (LCPD); non-contact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM); SiC
An ultrasensitive cantilever, oscillating parallel to a surface in vacuum, is used to probe weak thermal electric field gradient fluctuations over thin polymer films. We measure the power spectrum of cantilever frequency fluctuations as a function of cantilever height and voltage over polymers of various compositions and thicknesses. The data are well described by a linear-response theory that calculates stochastic electric fields arising from thermally-driven dielectric fluctuations.
The noise of the frequency-shift signal Δf in noncontact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM) consists of cantilever thermal noise, tip–surface-interaction noise and instrumental noise from the detection and signal processing systems. We investigate how the displacement-noise spectral density d
z at the input of the frequency demodulator propagates to the frequency-shift-noise spectral density d
f at the demodulator output in dependence of cantilever properties and settings of the signal processing electronics in the limit of a negligible tip–surface interaction and a measurement under ultrahigh-vacuum conditions. For a quantification of the noise figures, we calibrate the cantilever displacement signal and determine the transfer function of the signal-processing electronics. From the transfer function and the measured d
z, we predict d
f for specific filter settings, a given level of detection-system noise spectral density d
ds and the cantilever-thermal-noise spectral density d
th. We find an excellent agreement between the calculated and measured values for d
f. Furthermore, we demonstrate that thermal noise in d
f, defining the ultimate limit in NC-AFM signal detection, can be kept low by a proper choice of the cantilever whereby its Q-factor should be given most attention. A system with a low-noise signal detection and a suitable cantilever, operated with appropriate filter and feedback-loop settings allows room temperature NC-AFM measurements at a low thermal-noise limit with a significant bandwidth.
Cantilever; feedback loop; filter; noncontact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM); noise
Detection of magnetic resonance as a force between a magnetic tip and nuclear spins has previously been shown to enable sub-10 nm resolution 1H imaging. Maximizing the spin force in such a magnetic resonance force microscopy (MRFM) experiment demands a high field gradient. In order to study a wide range of samples, it is equally desirable to locate the magnetic tip on the force sensor. Here we report the development of attonewton-sensitivity cantilevers with high gradient cobalt nanomagnet tips. The damage layer thickness and saturation magnetization of the magnetic material were characterized by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and superconducting quantum interference device magnetometry. The coercive field and saturation magnetization of an individual tip were quantified in situ using frequency-shift cantilever magnetometry. Measurements of cantilever dissipation versus magnetic field and tip-sample separation were conducted. MRFM signals from protons in a polystyrene film were studied versus rf irradiation frequency and tip-sample separation, and from this data the tip field and tip-field gradient were evaluated. Magnetic tip performance was assessed by numerically modeling the frequency dependence of the magnetic resonance signal. We observed a tip-field gradient ∂Bztip∕∂z estimated to be between 4.4 and 5.4 MT m−1, which is comparable to the gradient used in recent 4 nm resolution 1H imaging experiments and larger by nearly an order of magnitude than the gradient achieved in prior magnet-on-cantilever MRFM experiments.
nanofabrication; magnetic resonance force microscopy; magnetometry; X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy; superconducting quantum interference device; surface-induced dissipation
► Development of small cantilever. ► Speed increase by a factor of ten using small cantilevers on a commercial AFM. ► Force sensitivity increase by a factor of five using small cantilever prototypes for force spectroscopy measurements.
In this study, we demonstrate the increased performance in speed and sensitivity achieved by the use of small AFM cantilevers on a standard AFM system. For this, small rectangular silicon oxynitride cantilevers were utilized to arrive at faster atomic force microscopy (AFM) imaging times and more sensitive molecular recognition force spectroscopy (MRFS) experiments. The cantilevers we used had lengths between 13 and 46 μm, a width of about 11 μm, and a thickness between 150 and 600 nm. They were coated with chromium and gold on the backside for a better laser reflection. We characterized these small cantilevers through their frequency spectrum and with electron microscopy. Due to their small size and high resonance frequency we were able to increase the imaging speed by a factor of 10 without any loss in resolution for images from several μm scansize down to the nanometer scale. This was shown on bacterial surface layers (s-layer) with tapping mode under aqueous, near physiological conditions and on nuclear membranes in contact mode in ambient environment. In addition, we showed that single molecular forces can be measured with an up to 5 times higher force sensitivity in comparison to conventional cantilevers with similar spring constants.
Small cantilever; High resolution imaging; Fast AFM imaging; Ultra-sensitive molecular recognition force spectroscopy
Force drift is a significant, yet unresolved, problem in atomic force microscopy (AFM). We show that the primary source of force drift for a popular class of cantilevers is their gold coating, even though they are coated on both sides to minimize drift. Drift of the zero-force position of the cantilever was reduced from 900 nm for gold-coated cantilevers to 70 nm (N =10; rms) for uncoated cantilevers over the first 2 hours after wetting the tip; a majority of these uncoated cantilevers (60%) showed significantly less drift (12 nm, rms). Removing the gold also led to ~10-fold reduction in reflected light, yet short-term (0.1–10 s) force precision improved. Moreover, improved force precision did not require extended settling; most of the cantilevers tested (9 out of 15) achieved sub-pN force precision (0.54 ± 0.02 pN) over a broad bandwidth (0.01–10 Hz) just 30 min after loading. Finally, this precision was maintained while stretching DNA. Hence, removing gold enables both routine and timely access to sub-pN force precision in liquid over extended periods (100 s). We expect that many current and future applications of AFM can immediately benefit from these improvements in force stability and precision.
Atomic force microscopy; scanning probe microscopy; single molecule force spectroscopy; drift; overstretching DNA; cantilever
Microcantilevers are used in a number of applications including atomic-force microscopy (AFM). In this work, deflection-sensing elements along with heating elements are integrated onto micromachined cantilever arrays to increase sensitivity, and reduce complexity and cost. An array of probes with 5–10 nm gold ultrathin film sensors on silicon substrates for high throughput scanning probe microscopy is developed. The deflection sensitivity is 0.2 ppm/nm. Plots of the change in resistance of the sensing element with displacement are used to calibrate the probes and determine probe contact with the substrate. Topographical scans demonstrate high throughput and nanometer resolution. The heating elements are calibrated and the thermal coefficient of resistance (TCR) is 655 ppm/K. The melting temperature of a material is measured by locally heating the material with the heating element of the cantilever while monitoring the bending with the deflection sensing element. The melting point value measured with this method is in close agreement with the reported value in literature.
Microcantilevers; Scanning probe microscopy; Piezoresistive sensing; Parallel imaging; Elastography; Mechanical characterization; Melting point; High throughput
Microcantilevers were first introduced as imaging probes in Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) due to their extremely high sensitivity in measuring surface forces. The versatility of these probes, however, allows the sensing and measurement of a host of mechanical properties of various materials. Sensor parameters such as resonance frequency, quality factor, amplitude of vibration and bending due to a differential stress can all be simultaneously determined for a cantilever. When measuring the mechanical properties of materials, identifying and discerning the most influential parameters responsible for the observed changes in the cantilever response are important. We will, therefore, discuss the effects of various force fields such as those induced by mass loading, residual stress, internal friction of the material, and other changes in the mechanical properties of the microcantilevers. Methods to measure variations in temperature, pressure, or molecular adsorption of water molecules are also discussed. Often these effects occur simultaneously, increasing the number of parameters that need to be concurrently measured to ensure the reliability of the sensors. We therefore systematically investigate the geometric and environmental effects on cantilever measurements including the chemical nature of the underlying interactions. To address the geometric effects we have considered cantilevers with a rectangular or circular cross section. The chemical nature is addressed by using cantilevers fabricated with metals and/or dielectrics. Selective chemical etching, swelling or changes in Young's modulus of the surface were investigated by means of polymeric and inorganic coatings. Finally to address the effect of the environment in which the cantilever operates, the Knudsen number was determined to characterize the molecule-cantilever collisions. Also bimaterial cantilevers with high thermal sensitivity were used to discern the effect of temperature variations. When appropriate, we use continuum mechanics, which is justified according to the ratio between the cantilever thickness and the grain size of the materials. We will also address other potential applications such as the ageing process of nuclear materials, building materials, and optical fibers, which can be investigated by monitoring their mechanical changes with time. In summary, by virtue of the dynamic response of a miniaturized cantilever shaped material, we present useful measurements of the associated elastic properties.
Microcantilever; mechanics; ageing; environment; stress; gas; materials; sensor; pressure; temperature
We critically discuss the extraction of intrinsic cantilever properties, namely eigenfrequency f
n, quality factor Q
n and specifically the stiffness k
n of the nth cantilever oscillation mode from thermal noise by an analysis of the power spectral density of displacement fluctuations of the cantilever in contact with a thermal bath. The practical applicability of this approach is demonstrated for several cantilevers with eigenfrequencies ranging from 50 kHz to 2 MHz. As such an analysis requires a sophisticated spectral analysis, we introduce a new method to determine k
n from a spectral analysis of the demodulated oscillation signal of the excited cantilever that can be performed in the frequency range of 10 Hz to 1 kHz regardless of the eigenfrequency of the cantilever. We demonstrate that the latter method is in particular useful for noncontact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM) where the required simple instrumentation for spectral analysis is available in most experimental systems.
AFM; cantilever; noncontact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM); Q-factor; thermal excitation; resonance; spectral analysis; stiffness
Atomic force microscopy (AFM) allows for the visualizing of individual proteins, DNA
molecules, protein-protein complexes, and DNA-protein complexes. On the end of the
microscope's cantilever is a nano-scale probe, which traverses image areas ranging from
nanometers to micrometers, measuring the elevation of macromolecules resting on the
substrate surface at any given point. Electrostatic forces cause proteins, lipids, and
nucleic acids to loosely attach to the substrate in random orientations and permit
imaging. The generated data resemble a topographical map, where the macromolecules resolve
as three-dimensional particles of discrete sizes (Figure 1) 1,2.
Tapping mode AFM involves the repeated oscillation of the cantilever, which permits
imaging of relatively soft biomaterials such as DNA and proteins. One of the notable
benefits of AFM over other nanoscale microscopy techniques is its relative adaptability to
visualize individual proteins and macromolecular complexes in aqueous buffers, including
near-physiologic buffered conditions, in real-time, and without staining or coating the
sample to be imaged.
The method presented here describes the imaging of DNA and an immunoadsorbed
transcription factor (i.e. the glucocorticoid receptor, GR) in buffered solution
(Figure 2). Immunoadsorbed proteins and protein complexes can be separated
from the immunoadsorbing antibody-bead pellet by competition with the antibody epitope and
then imaged (Figure 2A). This allows for biochemical manipulation of the
biomolecules of interest prior to imaging. Once purified, DNA and proteins can be mixed
and the resultant interacting complex can be imaged as well. Binding of DNA to mica
requires a divalent cation 3,such as Ni2+ or Mg2+, which
can be added to sample buffers yet maintain protein activity. Using a similar approach,
AFM has been utilized to visualize individual enzymes, including RNA polymerase
4 and a repair enzyme 5, bound to individual DNA strands. These
experiments provide significant insight into the protein-protein and DNA-protein
biophysical interactions taking place at the molecular level. Imaging individual
macromolecular particles with AFM can be useful for determining particle homogeneity and
for identifying the physical arrangement of constituent components of the imaged
particles. While the present method was developed for visualization of GR-chaperone
protein complexes 1,2 and DNA strands to which the GR can bind, it can be
applied broadly to imaging DNA and protein samples from a variety of sources.
The vibration behavior of an atomic force microscope [AFM] cantilever with a crack during the nanomachining process is studied. The cantilever is divided into two segments by the crack, and a rotational spring is used to simulate the crack. The two individual governing equations of transverse vibration for the cracked cantilever can be expressed. However, the corresponding boundary conditions are coupled because of the crack interaction. Analytical expressions for the vibration displacement and natural frequency of the cracked cantilever are obtained. In addition, the effects of crack flexibility, crack location, and tip length on the vibration displacement of the cantilever are analyzed. Results show that the crack occurs in the AFM cantilever that can significantly affect its vibration response.
PACS: 07.79.Lh; 62.20.mt; 62.25.Jk
atomic force microscope; cracked cantilever; nanomachining; vibration response1
We have designed and tested a new, inexpensive, easy-to-make and easy-to-use calibration standard for atomic force microscopy (AFM) lateral force measurements. This new standard simply consists of a small glass fiber of known dimensions and Young’s modulus, which is fixed at one end to a substrate and which can be bent laterally with the AFM tip at the other end. This standard has equal or less error than the commonly used method of using beam mechanics to determine a cantilever’s lateral force constant. It is transferable, thus providing a universal tool for comparing the calibrations of different instruments. It does not require knowledge of the cantilever dimensions and composition or its tip height. This standard also allows direct conversion of the photodiode signal to force and, thus, circumvents the requirement for a sensor response (sensitivity) measurement.
Dielectric fluctuations are shown to be the dominant source of noncontact friction in high-sensitivity scanning probe microscopy of dielectric materials. Recent measurements have directly determined the friction acting on custom-fabricated single-crystal silicon cantilevers whose capacitively charged tips are located 3–200 nm above thin films of poly(methyl methacrylate), poly(vinyl acetate), and polystyrene. Differences in measured friction among these polymers are explained here by relating electric field fluctuations at the cantilever tip to dielectric relaxation of the polymer.
In fluorescence microscopy and spectroscopy, energy transfer processes between single fluorophores and fluorophore quencher pairs play an important role in the investigation of molecular distances or orientations. At distances larger than about 3 nm these effects originate predominantly from dipolar coupling. As these experiments are commonly performed in homogenous media, effects at the interface boundaries can be neglected. Nevertheless, the combination of such assays with single-molecule manipulation techniques such as atomic force microscopy (AFM) requires a detailed understanding of the influence of interfaces on dipolar coupling effects. In the presented work we used a combined total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy (TIRFM)–AFM setup to elucidate this issue. We measured the fluorescence emission emanating from single quantum dots as a function of distance from the apex of a gold-coated cantilever tip. As well as fluorescence quenching at close proximity to the tip, we found a nonlinear and nonmonotonic distance dependence of the fluorescence emission. To confirm and interpret our findings we performed calculations on the basis of a simplified multiple multipole (MMP) approach, which successfully supports our experimental data. Moreover, we revealed and quantified the influence of interfering processes such as field enhancement confined at interface boundaries, mirror dipoles and (resonant) dipolar coupling.
AFM; fluorescence energy transfer; multiple multipole simulation; quantum dots
Information obtained by atomic force microscopy (AFM) depends strongly on the kind of probe or tip used; therefore, probe and tip effects have to be taken into account when verifying or interpreting the data acquired. In many papers, double-tip effects have been mentioned while other research was done; however, there are only a few special reports on double- or triple-tip effects, especially double-probe effects. In our paper, metaphase chromosomes of Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells, aggregates of pectin molecules, membrane surface of mouse embryonic stem cells, and R-phycoerythrin-conjugated immunoglobulin G complexes were imaged by AFM with high-quality probes, double-probe cantilever, and double-tip and triple-tip probes, respectively, in order to determine double-probe, double-tip, and triple-tip effects during AFM scanning. We found that the double-probe, double-tip, and triple-tip effects share the same principle, and that these effects correlate with distance and height differences between probes of double-probe cantilever or tips of double-tip or multiple-tip probes. Since many other factors influence double-probe or double-tip effects, more in-depth studies must be undertaken. However, this initial research will make all users of AFM techniques aware of double-probe and double-tip or triple-tip effects during AFM scanning and aid in verifying or interpreting the data acquired.
double-probe effects; double-tip effects; triple-tip effects; atomic force microscopy; tip artifacts; chromosome; pectin; phycoerythrin conjugated immunoglobulin G