Dr. Todd Sulchek and Dr. Siping Roger Qiu have developed a method to integrate an atomic force microscope cantilever into a microfluidic environment. The apparatus can deliver subnanoliter quantities of solution directly to the sample environment. The design succinctly combines batch-fabricated microcantilevers with batch-fabricated microfluidic channels for use in commercial atomic force microscopes (AFMs). The design provides the first method to allow AFM imaging and force spectroscopy in a microfluidic environment.
- More precise — Three orders of magnitude decrease in volume of fluid containment when working with the microscope
- Cost-saving — Allows for the use of less analyte (important for drug companies)
- Atomic force microscopy within very small liquid environments
- Pharmaceutical interactions with targets, crystal growth studies, other basic science studies
- Sensor studies
Researchers value the atomic force microscope because it allows nanometer scale imaging resolution in physiological environments. However, the current state of the art fluid cells do not allow a correspondingly precise control of the fluid environment. Commercially available fluid cells have sample volumes of a hundred microliters. For many applications, this large volume in relation to the size of the cantilever is a major drawback.