Imaging Powders with the Atomic Force Microscope: From Biominerals to Commercial Materials

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Science  13 Sep 1991:
Vol. 253, Issue 5025, pp. 1261-1263
DOI: 10.1126/science.253.5025.1261


Atomically resolved images of pressed powder samples have been obtained with the atomic force microscope (AFM). The technique was successful in resolving the particle, domain, and atomic structure of pismo clam (Tivela stultorum) and sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) shells and of commercially available calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and strontium carbonate (SrCO3) powders. Grinding and subsequent pressing of the shells did not destroy the microstructure of these materials. The atomic-resolution imaging capabilities of AFM can be applied to polycrystalline samples by means of pressing powders with a grain size as small as 50 micrometers. These results illustrate that the AFM is a promising tool for material science and the study of biomineralization.