Scanning probe microscopy of biological samples and other surfaces

O. MARTI, V. Elings, M. Haugan, C. E. Bracker, J. Schneir, B. Drake, S. A.C. Gould, J. Gurley, L. Hellemans, K. Shaw, A. L. Weisenhorn, J. Zasadzinski, P. K. Hansma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Scanning probe microscopes derived from the scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) offer new ways to examine surfaces of biological samples and technologically important materials. The surfaces of conductive and semiconductive samples can readily be imaged with the STM. Unfortunately, most surfaces are not conductive. Three alternative approaches were used in our laboratory to image such surfaces. 1. Crystals of an amino acid were imaged with the atomic force microscope (AFM) to molecular resolution with a force of order 10−8 N. However, it appears that for most biological systems to be imaged, the atomic force microscope should be able to operate at forces at least one and perhaps several orders of magnitude smaller. The substitution of optical detection of the cantilever bending for the measurement by electron tunnelling improved the reliability of the instrument considerably. 2. Conductive replicas of non‐conductive surfaces enabled the imaging of biological surfaces with an STM with a lateral resolution comparable to that of the transmission electron microscope. Unlike the transmission electron microscope, the STM also measures the heights of the features. 3. The scanning ion conductance microscope scans a micropipette with an opening diameter of 0·04‐0·1 μm at constant ionic conductance over a surface covered with a conducting solution (e.g., the surface of plant leaves in saline solution). 1988 Blackwell Science Ltd

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)803-809
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Microscopy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1988


  • Scanning probe microscope
  • amino acid crystal
  • atomic force microscopy
  • biological structure
  • replica
  • scanning ion conductance microscopy
  • scanning tunnelling microscopy
  • surface

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Scanning probe microscopy of biological samples and other surfaces'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this