Design, construction and optimization of a combined Atomic Force Microscope and Optical Tweezers instrument for single molecules and nanomaterials characterization.
PI: Filippo Pierini
Funding agency: National Centre for Research and Development (NCBiR)
Programme: Lider 7
Grant period: 01th March 2017 - 29th February 2020
Force plays a crucial role in physical, biological and chemical processes. The study of forces involved in molecular and nanomaterial interactions is among the most important challenges in contemporary scientific research. Achieving a better knowledge of the mechanical forces involved in single molecules, nanomaterials and biological objects activities is fundamental for the understanding of their structure and function. A few techniques have been recently used to measure directly the forces required to unfold molecules, to quantify mechanical properties of biological tissues and cells, but they are invasive, slow and not precise enough to satisfy current requirements.
Therefore, the aim of this project is to develop a hybrid double probe instrument which can be used to achieve these purposes. This piece of equipment will be built by coupling an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) with another instrument capable of manipulating matter at the nanoscale and to control and measure force with high resolution, sensitivity and flexibility: Optical Tweezers (OT).
By using this new instrument, it will be possible to detect subnanometer displacements, to measure femtonewton forces and to manipulate biological materials, living cells and nanomaterials using a non-invasive procedure and that is why we think that the hybrid AFM/OT instrument will usher important advances in biophysics and in the study of nanomaterials mechanical properties. The characteristics illustrated above lead us to believe that the use of AFM/OT will spread to several areas, for example medicine and molecular biology.