From molecules to cells: imaging soft samples with the atomic force microscope

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Science  25 Sep 1992:
Vol. 257, Issue 5078, pp. 1900-1905
DOI: 10.1126/science.1411505


Since its invention a few years ago, the atomic force microscope has become one of the most widely used near-field microscopes. Surfaces of hard sample are imaged routinely with atomic resolution. Soft samples, however, remain challenging. An overview is presented on the application of atomic force microscopy to organic samples ranging from thin ordered films at molecular resolution to living cells. Fundamental mechanisms of the image formation are discussed, and novel imaging modes are introduced that exploit different aspects of the tip-sample interaction for local measurements of the micromechanical properties of the sample. As examples, images of Langmuir-Blodgett films, which map the local viscoelasticity as well as the friction coefficient, are presented.

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