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3DNANOMECH Report Summary

Project ID: 340177
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Spain

Mid-Term Report Summary - 3DNANOMECH (Three-dimensional molecular resolution mapping of soft matter-liquid interfaces)

Optical, electron and probe microscopes are enabling tools for discoveries and knowledge generation in nanoscale science and technology. High resolution –atomic, molecular or nanoscale-, non-invasive and label-free imaging of three-dimensional soft matter-liquid interfaces has not been achieved. Force microscopy (AFM) is considered the second most relevant advance in materials science since 1960. Despite its impressive range of applications, the technique has some key limitations. Force microscopy has not three dimensional depth. What lies above or in the subsurface is not readily characterized.

3DNanoMech proposes to design, build and operate a force-based method for the three-dimensional characterization of soft matter-liquid interfaces (3D AFM). The microscope will combine a detection method based on force perturbations, adaptive algorithms, high speed piezo actuators, small cantilevers and quantitative-oriented multifrequency approaches.

The project has a major instrumentation outcome, the 3D AFM instrument and its methodology to map nanomechanical properties of solid-liquid interfaces. Because of the different spatial and temporal scales of the problems addressed in the project, two different 3D AFM instruments are designed. One will be devoted to address solid-liquid interfaces with spatial and temporal resolutions, respectively, of 0.1 nm and 10 milliseconds. The other will be devoted to address properties and the interactions of cells and tissues with spatial and temporal resolutions, respectively, of 100 nm and 0.1 s.

The instruments developed in 3DNanoMech will be applied to address several interdisciplinary problems. Specifically, we aim to understand the formation of hydration and/or ionic layers on a variety of solid-liquid interfaces such as the one formed by mica and common salt solutions. We also aim to understand the relationship existing between the nanomechanical properties of single cells and different physiological and pathological processes such as the malignancy of cancer cells or lipodystrophy. Those problems encompass the different spatial –atomic to mesoscopic- and time –from milli to seconds- scales of the 3DNanoMech instruments.

In short, 3DNanoMech aims to image, map and measure with picoNewton, millisecond and angstrom resolution the three-dimensional structure of soft matter-liquid interfaces. The long-term vision of 3DNanoMech is to replace schemes or computer animations of bimolecular-liquid interfaces by real time, molecular resolution maps of properties and processes.

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