MRI: Acquisition of an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) for Visualization, Assembly, and Analysis of Materials at the Nanometer and Molecular Scale

Project: Research project

Project Details




Lehigh U.

'This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).'

Technical Abstract

A flexible Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), integrated with an inverted light microscope, enables advanced nanometer scale imaging, spectroscopy, lithography, and manipulation. Acquisition of this instrument will: (i) significantly improve the capability at Lehigh University to characterize surfaces and interfaces, as well as new nanometer-scale materials; (ii) promote fundamental studies of intermolecular interactions, self-assembly, and nanofabrication; (iii) help develop new analytical techniques; (iv) allow the current, old, shared AFM/nanoindenter to be dedicated to full-time nanoindentation, and (v) enhance collaborations developing on campus among academic units such as Physics, Chemistry, Materials Science, and Chemical Engineering. Fundamental research that will be carried out with a new state-of-the-art AFM will advance understanding of molecular and nanometer scale mechanics and biomolecular interactions, self-assembly and organization at the nanoscale, as well as synthesis, manipulation, and properties of new, complex nanostructures (such as macroions, calix[6]arene Langmuir-Blodgett films, and carbon nanotube-DNA hybrids). It will also enable increased campus-wide use of nanoindentation, thereby supporting ongoing work in nano- and micro-mechanics of metals, ceramics, and composites. The diverse nature of studies that can be carried out using a modern AFM will contribute greatly to the interdisciplinary effort required to train students and post-doctoral researchers to work at the interfaces between chemistry, physics, biology, and engineering, and will improve collaborations with external academic, business and industrial partners. Outreach to students at the professional, undergraduate, and K-12 levels will be enhanced by the instrument?s ease of use and remote operation capability.

Non-technical Abstract

An Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) coupled to an optical microscope can be used to visualize, measure, and manipulate surfaces at the nanometer scale. This capability is crucial for understanding and modifying the phenomena that underlie processes such as catalysis for chemical production, adhesion of cells for development of new biomaterials, and growth of nanostructures for advanced lighting devices. With an AFM it is possible to analyze a wide variety of materials ? from soft to hard, organic to inorganic, wet to dry ? with atomic resolution. Furthermore, the ability to actually manipulate matter at the nanoscale creates new possibilities for the creation and testing of unique materials, including complex molecules and carbon nanotube-DNA hybrids, that could solve problems in diverse areas such as energy production, space exploration, and disease treatment. With accessories that establish the conditions necessary for the examination of biological materials, the instrument will enable new directions in nanotechnology research at Lehigh University in Bioengineering, Physics, Chemistry, Materials Science, and Chemical Engineering. The new capability will also enable increased use of an old, existing AFM as a dedicated nanomechanical test instrument for understanding the failure resistance of novel nanomaterials. The new instrument will be much easier to use than those of previous generations, so it will be more accessible to undergraduate students and industry collaborators. It can also be operated over the Web, and can be used at a distance to engage children at the K-12 levels by allowing them to ?see? at the nanoscale without leaving their classrooms.

Effective start/end date10/1/099/30/12


  • National Science Foundation: $249,467.00


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