Scanning Probe Evolution in Biology

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Science  07 Nov 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5647, pp. 1002-1005
DOI: 10.1126/science.1067410

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Twenty years ago the first scanning probe instrument, the scanning tunneling microscope, opened up new realms for our perception of the world. Atoms that had been abstract entities were now real objects, clearly seen as distinguishable individuals at particular positions in space. A whole family of scanning probe instruments has been developed, extending our sense of touching to the scale of atoms and molecules. Such instruments are especially useful for imaging of biomolecular structures because they can produce topographic images with submolecular resolution in aqueous environments. Instruments with increased imaging rates, lower probe-specimen force interactions, and probe configurations not constrained to planar surfaces are being developed, with the goal of imaging processes at the single-molecule level—not only at surfaces but also within three-dimensional volumes—in real time.

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