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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/D501202/1
Title: Biomolecular materials imaged by self-oscillating FM-AFM
Principal Investigator: Mellor, Dr CJ
Other Investigators:
Chen, Professor X Roberts, Professor C
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Physics & Astronomy
Organisation: University of Nottingham
Scheme: Standard Research (Pre-FEC)
Starts: 01 June 2005 Ends: 30 November 2006 Value (£): 63,548
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Cells Instrumentation Eng. & Dev.
Lasers & Optics
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
To help us understand how living systems work we need to look at them very closely, in conditions that are as close to real life as possible. However because living tissue is very complex we often study the components of such systems, rather than large tissue samples, as these are easier to understand. These components include individual molecules and cell membranes, the barriers that separate the inside of the cell from the liquids that surround it.Optical microscopes that use light can only take 'sharp' images on length scales larger than the wavelength of light. This limits conventional optical microscopy to looking at things which are bigger than, say, 500nm or so. If we want to look at details which are much smaller than this (say 10-20nm) then we have to use electron microscopy or atomic force microscopy. Electron microscopy is extremely high resolution and works by scattering electrons from the object you want to look at. However the object usually has to be frozen and specially prepared before it is put into the electron microscope.Atomic force microscopy, on the other hand, can image in fluid, at room temperature and with minimal sample preparation. A very sharp point is scanned over the object and a profile of the object built up. This technique is now widely used. In most atomic force microscopes, the sharp tip is on a thin beam of material which is oscillating up and down. The microscope controls the amplitude of the oscillation so that if the tip-sample distance becomes too small the distance is increased automatically to keep the amplitude constant. One problem with this technique is that the tip repeatedly hits the sample, which can be soft, and this may cause damage or the height of the sample is measured incorrectly.In this research we shall try and control the distance between the sample and tip by measuring the frequency at which the tip naturally oscillates at when it is close to the sample. There are several research papers which suggest that this causes less damage to the sample and also enables us to make more accurate measurements of the forces between the tip and the sample. During the research we need to work out the best conditions for imaging in this new method and understand what are the comparative benefits of the new method.
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Organisation Website: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk