Background: Noncontact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM) now regularly produces atomic-resolution images on a wide range of surfaces, and has demonstrated the capability for atomic manipulation solely using chemical forces. Nonetheless, the role of the tip apex in both imaging and manipulation remains poorly understood and is an active area of research both experimentally and theoretically. Recent work employing specially functionalised tips has provided additional impetus to elucidating the role of the tip apex in the observed contrast.
Results: We present an analysis of the influence of the tip apex during imaging of the Si(100) substrate in ultra-high vacuum (UHV) at 5 K using a qPlus sensor for noncontact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM). Data demonstrating stable imaging with a range of tip apexes, each with a characteristic imaging signature, have been acquired. By imaging at close to zero applied bias we eliminate the influence of tunnel current on the force between tip and surface, and also the tunnel-current-induced excitation of silicon dimers, which is a key issue in scanning probe studies of Si(100).
Conclusion: A wide range of novel imaging mechanisms are demonstrated on the Si(100) surface, which can only be explained by variations in the precise structural configuration at the apex of the tip. Such images provide a valuable resource for theoreticians working on the development of realistic tip structures for NC-AFM simulations. Force spectroscopy measurements show that the tip termination critically affects both the short-range force and dissipated energy.
force spectroscopy; image contrast; noncontact AFM; qPlus; Si(001); Si(100); tip (apex) structure
Noncontact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM) is being increasingly used to measure the interaction force between an atomically sharp probe tip and surfaces of interest, as a function of the three spatial dimensions, with picometer and piconewton accuracy. Since the results of such measurements may be affected by piezo nonlinearities, thermal and electronic drift, tip asymmetries, and elastic deformation of the tip apex, these effects need to be considered during image interpretation.
In this paper, we analyze their impact on the acquired data, compare different methods to record atomic-resolution surface force fields, and determine the approaches that suffer the least from the associated artifacts. The related discussion underscores the idea that since force fields recorded by using NC-AFM always reflect the properties of both the sample and the probe tip, efforts to reduce unwanted effects of the tip on recorded data are indispensable for the extraction of detailed information about the atomic-scale properties of the surface.
atomic force microscopy; force spectroscopy; NC-AFM; three-dimensional atomic force microscopy; tip asymmetry; tip elasticity
Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is a three-dimensional topographic technique with a high atomic resolution to measure surface roughness. AFM is a kind of scanning probe microscope, and its near-field technique is based on the interaction between a sharp tip and the atoms of the sample surface. There are several methods and many ways to modify the tip of the AFM to investigate surface properties, including measuring friction, adhesion forces and viscoelastic properties as well as determining the Young modulus and imaging magnetic or electrostatic properties. The AFM technique can analyze any kind of samples such as polymers, adsorbed molecules, films or fibers, and powders in the air whether in a controlled atmosphere or in a liquid medium. In the past decade, the AFM has emerged as a powerful tool to obtain the nanostructural details and biomechanical properties of biological samples, including biomolecules and cells. The AFM applications, techniques, and -in particular- its ability to measure forces, are not still familiar to most clinicians. This paper reviews the literature on the main principles of the AFM modality and highlights the advantages of this technique in biology, medicine, and- especially- dentistry. This literature review was performed through E-resources, including Science Direct, PubMed, Blackwell Synergy, Embase, Elsevier, and Scholar Google for the references published between 1985 and 2010.
Atomic force microscopy; Scanning tunneling microscopy; Scanning probe microscopy; Dental; Biological
Measurements of the frequency shift versus distance in noncontact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM) allow measurements of the force gradient between the oscillating tip and a surface (force-spectroscopy measurements). When nonconservative forces act between the tip apex and the surface the oscillation amplitude is damped. The dissipation is caused by bistabilities in the potential energy surface of the tip–sample system, and the process can be understood as a hysteresis of forces between approach and retraction of the tip. In this paper, we present the direct measurement of the whole hysteresis loop in force-spectroscopy curves at 77 K on the PTCDA/Ag/Si(111) √3 × √3 surface by means of a tuning-fork-based NC-AFM with an oscillation amplitude smaller than the distance range of the hysteresis loop. The hysteresis effect is caused by the making and breaking of a bond between PTCDA molecules on the surface and a PTCDA molecule at the tip. The corresponding energy loss was determined to be 0.57 eV by evaluation of the force–distance curves upon approach and retraction. Furthermore, a second dissipation process was identified through the damping of the oscillation while the molecule on the tip is in contact with the surface. This dissipation process occurs mainly during the retraction of the tip. It reaches a maximum value of about 0.22 eV/cycle.
atomic force microscopy; energy dissipation; force spectroscopy; hysteresis loop; PTCDA/Ag/Si(111) √3 × √3
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
By applying a voltage pulse to a scanning tunneling microscope tip the surface under the tip will be modified. We have in this paper taken a closer look at the model of electric field induced surface diffusion of adatoms including the van der Waals force as a contribution in formations of a mound on a surface. The dipole moment of an adatom is the sum of the surface induced dipole moment (which is constant) and the dipole moment due to electric field polarisation which depends on the strength and polarity of the electric field. The electric field is analytically modelled by a point charge over an infinite conducting flat surface. From this we calculate the force that cause adatoms to migrate. The calculated force is small for voltage used, typical 1 pN, but due to thermal vibration adatoms are hopping on the surface and even a small net force can be significant in the drift of adatoms. In this way we obtain a novel formula for a polarity dependent threshold voltage for mound formation on the surface for positive tip. Knowing the voltage of the pulse we then can calculate the radius of the formed mound. A threshold electric field for mound formation of about 2 V/nm is calculated. In addition, we found that van der Waals force is of importance for shorter distances and its contribution to the radial force on the adatoms has to be considered for distances smaller than 1.5 nm for commonly used voltages.
Surface thermodynamic analyses of microbial adhesion using measured contact angles on solid substrata and microbial cell surfaces are widely employed to determine the nature of the adhesion forces, i.e., the interplay between Lifshitz-van der Waals and acid-base forces. While surface thermodynamic analyses are often viewed critically, atomic force microscopy (AFM) can also provide information on the nature of the adhesion forces by means of Poisson analysis of the measured forces. This review first presents a description of Poisson analysis and its underlying assumptions. The data available from the literature for different combinations of bacterial strains and substrata are then summarized, leading to the conclusion that bacterial adhesion to surfaces is generally dominated by short-range, attractive acid-base interactions, in combination with long-range, weaker Lifshitz-van der Waals forces. This is in line with the findings of surface thermodynamic analyses of bacterial adhesion. Comparison with single-molecule ligand-receptor forces from the literature suggests that the short-range-force contribution from Poisson analysis involves a discrete adhesive bacterial cell surface site rather than a single molecular force. The adhesion force arising from these cell surface sites and the number of sites available may differ from strain to strain. Force spectroscopy, however, involves the tedious task of identifying the minor peaks in the AFM retraction force-distance curve. This step can be avoided by carrying out Poisson analysis on the work of adhesion, which can also be derived from retraction force-distance curves. This newly proposed way of performing Poisson analysis confirms that multiple molecular bonds, rather than a single molecular bond, contribute to a discrete adhesive bacterial cell surface site.
Based on high-resolution noncontact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM) experiments we reveal a detailed structural model of the polar (111) surface of the insulating ternary metal oxide, MgAl2O4 (spinel). NC-AFM images reveal a 6√3×6√3R30° superstructure on the surface consisting of patches with the original oxygen-terminated MgAl2O4(111) surface interrupted by oxygen-deficient areas. These observations are in accordance with previous theoretical studies, which predict that the polarity of the surface can be compensated by removal of a certain fraction of oxygen atoms. However, instead of isolated O vacancies, it is observed that O is removed in a distinct pattern of line vacancies reflected by the underlying lattice structure. Consequently, by the creation of triangular patches in a 6√3×6√3R30° superstructure, the polar-stabilization requirements are met.
aluminium oxide; metal oxide surfaces; noncontact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM); polar surfaces; reconstructions; spinel
Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) can be used to obtain high-resolution topographical images of bacteria revealing surface details and cell integrity. During scanning however, the interactions between the AFM probe and the membrane results in distortion of the images. Such distortions or artifacts are the result of geometrical effects related to bacterial cell height, specimen curvature and the AFM probe geometry. The most common artifact in imaging is surface broadening, what can lead to errors in bacterial sizing. Several methods of correction have been proposed to compensate for these artifacts and in this study we describe a simple geometric model for the interaction between the tip (a pyramidal shaped AFM probe) and the bacterium (Escherichia coli JM-109 strain) to minimize the enlarging effect. Approaches to bacteria immobilization and examples of AFM images analysis are also described.
Atomic force microscopy (AFM); Escherichia coli; cell dimensions; bacteria visualization
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.
The recent achievement of atomic resolution with dynamic atomic force microscopy (dAFM) [Fukuma et al., Appl. Phys. Lett.
2005, 87, 034101], where quality factors of the oscillating probe are inherently low, challenges some accepted beliefs concerning sensitivity and resolution in dAFM imaging modes. Through analysis and experiment we study the performance metrics for high-resolution imaging with dAFM in liquid media with amplitude modulation (AM), frequency modulation (FM) and drive-amplitude modulation (DAM) imaging modes. We find that while the quality factors of dAFM probes may deviate by several orders of magnitude between vacuum and liquid media, their sensitivity to tip–sample forces can be remarkable similar. Furthermore, the reduction in noncontact forces and quality factors in liquids diminishes the role of feedback control in achieving high-resolution images. The theoretical findings are supported by atomic-resolution images of mica in water acquired with AM, FM and DAM under similar operating conditions.
atomic force microscopy; dAFM; high-resolution; liquids
We report on the use of three different atomic force spectroscopy modalities to determine the nanomechanical properties of amyloid fibrils of the human α-synuclein protein. α-Synuclein forms fibrillar nanostructures of approximately 10 nm diameter and lengths ranging from 100 nm to several microns, which have been associated with Parkinson's disease. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) has been used to image the morphology of these protein fibrils deposited on a flat surface. For nanomechanical measurements, we used single-point nanoindentation, in which the AFM tip as the indenter is moved vertically to the fibril surface and back while the force is being recorded. We also used two recently developed AFM surface property mapping techniques: Harmonic force microscopy (HarmoniX) and Peakforce QNM. These modalities allow extraction of mechanical parameters of the surface with a lateral resolution and speed comparable to tapping-mode AFM imaging. Based on this phenomenological study, the elastic moduli of the α-synuclein fibrils determined using these three different modalities are within the range 1.3-2.1 GPa. We discuss the relative merits of these three methods for the determination of the elastic properties of protein fibrils, particularly considering the differences and difficulties of each method.
Nanoparticles are often measured using atomic force microscopy or other scanning probe microscopy methods. For isolated nanoparticles on flat substrates, this is a relatively easy task. However, in real situations, we often need to analyze nanoparticles on rough substrates or nanoparticles that are not isolated. In this article, we present a simple model for realistic simulations of nanoparticle deposition and we employ this model for modeling nanoparticles on rough substrates. Different modeling conditions (coverage, relaxation after deposition) and convolution with different tip shapes are used to obtain a wide spectrum of virtual AFM nanoparticle images similar to those known from practice. Statistical parameters of nanoparticles are then analyzed using different data processing algorithms in order to show their systematic errors and to estimate uncertainties for atomic force microscopy analysis of nanoparticles under non-ideal conditions. It is shown that the elimination of user influence on the data processing algorithm is a key step for obtaining accurate results while analyzing nanoparticles measured in non-ideal conditions.
Surface Plasmon resonance (SPR) spectroscopy is a useful technique for thermodynamically characterizing peptide–surface interactions; however, its usefulness is limited to the types of surfaces that can readily be formed as thin layers in nanometer scale on metallic biosensor substrates. Atomic force microscopy (AFM), on the other hand, can be used with any microscopically flat surface, thus making it more versatile for studying peptide–surface interactions. AFM, however, has the drawback of data interpretation due to questions regarding peptide-to-probe–tip density. This problem could be overcome if results from a standardized AFM method could be correlated with SPR results for a similar set of peptide–surface interactions so that AFM studies using the standardized method could be extended to characterize peptide–surface interactions for surfaces that are not amenable for characterization by SPR. In this paper, we present the development and application of an AFM method to measure adsorption forces for host–guest peptides sequence on surfaces consisting of alkanethiol self–assembled monolayers (SAMs) with different functionality. The results from these studies show that a linear correlation exists between these data and the adsorption free energy (ΔG°ads) values associated with a similar set of peptide–surface systems available from SPR measurements. These methods will be extremely useful to thermodynamically characterize the adsorption behavior for peptides on a much broader range of surfaces than can be used with SPR to provide information related to understanding protein adsorption behavior to these surfaces and to provide an experimental database that can be used for the evaluation, modification, and validation of force field parameters that are needed to accurately represent protein adsorption behavior for molecular simulations.
In this work, the graphene/α-SiO2(0001) interface is calculated using density functional theory. On the oxygen-terminated SiO2 surface, atomic structure reconstruction occurs at the graphene/SiO2 interface to eliminate the dangling bonds. The interface interaction is 77 meV/C atom, which indicates that van der Waals force dominates the interaction, but it is stronger than the force between the graphene layers in graphite. The distance between graphene and the SiO2 surface is 2.805 Å, which is smaller than the 3.4 Å interlayer distance of graphite. In addition, the SiO2 substrate induces p-type doping in graphene and opens a small gap of 0.13 eV at the Dirac point of graphene, which is desirable for electronic device applications.
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
We present polynomial force reconstruction from experimental intermodulation atomic force microscopy (ImAFM) data. We study the tip–surface force during a slow surface approach and compare the results with amplitude-dependence force spectroscopy (ADFS). Based on polynomial force reconstruction we generate high-resolution surface-property maps of polymer blend samples. The polynomial method is described as a special example of a more general approximative force reconstruction, where the aim is to determine model parameters that best approximate the measured force spectrum. This approximative approach is not limited to spectral data, and we demonstrate how it can be adapted to a force quadrature picture.
AFM; atomic force microscopy; force spectroscopy; multifrequency; intermodulation; polynomial
Imaging tools such as scanning electron microscope (SEM) and atomic force microscope (AFM) can be used to produce high-resolution topographic images of biomedical specimens and hence are well suited for imaging alterations in cell morphology. We have studied the correlation of SMAR1 expression with cell surface smoothness in cell lines as well as in different grades of human breast cancer and mouse tumor sections.
We validated knockdown and overexpression of SMAR1 using RT-PCR as well as Western blotting in human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293, human breast cancer (MCF-7) and mouse melanoma (B16F1) cell lines. The samples were then processed for cell surface roughness studies using atomic force microscopy (AFM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The same samples were used for microarray analysis as well. Tumors sections from control and SMAR1 treated mice as well as tissues sections from different grades of human breast cancer on poly L-lysine coated slides were used for AFM and SEM studies.
Tumor sections from mice injected with melanoma cells showed pronounced surface roughness. In contrast, tumor sections obtained from nude mice that were first injected with melanoma cells followed by repeated injections of SMAR1-P44 peptide, exhibited relatively smoother surface profile. Interestingly, human breast cancer tissue sections that showed reduced SMAR1 expression exhibited increased surface roughness compared to the adjacent normal breast tissue. Our AFM data establishes that treatment of cells with SMAR1-P44 results into increase in cytoskeletal volume that is supported by comparative gene expression data showing an increase in the expression of specific cytoskeletal proteins compared to the control cells. Altogether, these findings indicate that tumor suppressor function of SMAR1 might be exhibited through smoothening of cell surface by regulating expression of cell surface proteins.
Tumor suppressor protein SMAR1 might be used as a phenotypic differentiation marker between cancerous and non-cancerous cells.
Atomic force microscopy (AFM) has emerged as a powerful technique for mapping the surface morphology of biological specimens, including bacterial cells. Besides creating topographic images, AFM enables us to probe both physicochemical and mechanical properties of bacterial cell surfaces on a nanometer scale. For AFM, bacterial cells need to be firmly anchored to a substratum surface in order to withstand the friction forces from the silicon nitride tip. Different strategies for the immobilization of bacteria have been described in the literature. This paper compares AFM interaction forces obtained between Klebsiella terrigena and silicon nitride for three commonly used immobilization methods, i.e., mechanical trapping of bacteria in membrane filters, physical adsorption of negatively charged bacteria to a positively charged surface, and glutaraldehyde fixation of bacteria to the tip of the microscope. We have shown that different sample preparation techniques give rise to dissimilar interaction forces. Indeed, the physical adsorption of bacterial cells on modified substrata may promote structural rearrangements in bacterial cell surface structures, while glutaraldehyde treatment was shown to induce physicochemical and mechanical changes on bacterial cell surface properties. In general, mechanical trapping of single bacterial cells in filters appears to be the most reliable method for immobilization.
Atomic force microscopy (AFM) has emerged as the only technique capable of real-time imaging of the surface of a living cell at nano-resolution. Since AFM provides the advantage of directly observing living biological cells in their native environment, this technique has found many applications in pharmacology, biotechnology, microbiology, structural and molecular biology, genetics and other biology-related fields. AFM has also proved to be a valuable tool for reproductive biologists. An exhaustive review on the various applications of AFM to sperm cells is presented. AFM has been extensively applied for determining the structural and topological features of spermatozoa. Unstained, unfixed spermatozoa in their natural physiological surroundings can be imaged by this technique which provides valuable information about the morphological and pathological defects in sperm cells as three-dimensional images with precise topographical details. Sperm head defects and the acrosome at the tip of the head responsible for fertilization, can be examined and correlated with the lack of functional integrity of the cell. Considerable amount of work is reported on the structural details of the highly condensed chromatin in sperm head using AFM. Detailed information on 3D topographical images of spermatozoa acquired by AFM is expected to provide a better understanding of various reproductive pathways which, in turn, can facilitate improved infertility management and/or contraceptive development.
The atomic force microscope (AFM;1) can image DNA and RNA in air and under solutions at resolution comparable to that obtained by electron microscopy (EM) (2-7). We have developed a method for depositing and imaging linear DNA molecules to which 5nm gold spheres have been attached. The gold spheres facilitate orientation of the DNA molecules on the mica surface to which they are absorbed and are potentially useful as internal height standards and as high resolution gene or sequence specific tags. We show that by modulating their adhesion to the mica surface, the gold spheres can be moved with some degree of control with the scanning tip.
To verify the robustness and fundamental value of Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) and AFM-based assays to rapidly examine the molecular homogeneity and physical stability of amorphous solid dispersions on Hot-Melt-Extrudates.
Amorphous solid dispersions were prepared with a Hot-Melt Extruder (HME) and profiled by Raman Microscopy and AFM following a sequential analytical routine (Multi-Scale-Imaging-of-Miscibiliy (MIMix)). Extrudates were analyzed before and after incubation at elevated temperature and humidity. The data were compared with published results as collected on miniaturized melt models. The value of molecular phase separation rates for long term stability prediction was assessed.
Data recorded on the extrudates are consistent with those published, and they can be compared side by side. Such direct data comparisons allow the identification of possible sources of extrudate heterogeneities. The surface roughness analysis of fracture-exposed interfaces is a novel quantitative way to trace on the nanometer scale the efficiencies of differently conducted HME-processes. Molecular phase separation rates are shown to be relevant for long term stability predictions.
The AFM-based assessment of API:excipient combinations is a robust method to rapidly identify miscible and stable solid dispersions in a routine manner. It provides a novel analytical tool for the optimization of HME processes.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11095-013-1045-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
amorphous solid dispersion; atomic force microscopy; hot melt extrusion; process optimization; stability prediction
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.
Aim: The preocular fluid is renewed with molecules secreted by the underlying cells and with lacrimal gland secretions, while maintaining a stable surface topography. The authors tested the hypothesis that interactions between gelled and newly inserted mucins are the key to this stability.
Methods: Using atomic force microscopy, the authors studied the topography of the freshly isolated preocular fluid obtained by impression cytology. The effects of adding mucins to this impression were compared with adding mucins to a pure mucin macromolecular assembly as a single component control to the more complex preocular fluid. The control structure was built up by repeated addition of pure ocular mucin to a tethering surface.
Results: Imaging at molecular resolution showed a thin layer of superficial preocular fluid with an appearance consistent with a gel that was very flat, with surface roughness of approximately 0.1 nm. Mucin molecules adhering to a clean flat surface maintained their individual character when overlapping, whereas molecules integrating in the impression could not be followed individually. Both the preocular impression and the pure mucin assembly were stable under imaging for at least 90 minutes. The roughness of the pure mucin network decreased as more mucin was added. In contrast, there was a small increase in the roughness of the 2.25 μm2 area of impression over the 60 minutes of continuous imaging, although locally there appeared to be infill of low height features. Disulphide bond breaking resulted in the collapse of the imaged structure in both the pure mucin control and the more complex ex vivo preocular impression.
Conclusions: Polymeric mucins linked by disulphide bonds prevent or lessen loss of ocular surface material into the surrounding aqueous tears.
atomic force microscopy; gel; mucin; Q-control
Accurate mechanical characterization by the atomic force microscope at the highest spatial resolution requires that topography is deconvoluted from indentation. The measured height of nanoscale features in the atomic force microscope (AFM) is almost always smaller than the true value, which is often explained away as sample deformation, the formation of salt deposits and/or dehydration. We show that the real height of nano-objects cannot be obtained directly: a result arising as a consequence of the local probe-sample geometry.
Methods and Findings
We have modeled the tip-surface-sample interaction as the sum of the interaction between the tip and the surface and the tip and the sample. We find that the dynamics of the AFM cannot differentiate between differences in force resulting from 1) the chemical and/or mechanical characteristics of the surface or 2) a step in topography due to the size of the sample; once the size of a feature becomes smaller than the effective area of interaction between the AFM tip and sample, the measured height is compromised. This general result is a major contributor to loss of height and can amount to up to ∼90% for nanoscale features. In particular, these very large values in height loss may occur even when there is no sample deformation, and, more generally, height loss does not correlate with sample deformation. DNA and IgG antibodies have been used as model samples where experimental height measurements are shown to closely match the predicted phenomena.
Being able to measure the true height of single nanoscale features is paramount in many nanotechnology applications since phenomena and properties in the nanoscale critically depend on dimensions. Our approach allows accurate predictions for the true height of nanoscale objects and will lead to reliable mechanical characterization at the highest spatial resolution.