Typical application of PeakForce QNM imaging on living plant cells.
Typical application of PeakForce QNM imaging on living plant cells.

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Measuring and mapping mechanical properties of live cells is of high importance in today’s biological research.Atomic force microscopy has been recognized since the mid-eighties as an excellent technique to image a wide range of samples in their near-natural environment. Although the primary function of atomic force microscopy is to generate a three-dimensional (3D) profile of the scanned surface, much more information is available through the technique. TappingMode™, which was developed in 1993, prevents tip and sample damage from friction and shear forces, and allows qualitative mechanical property mapping through phase imaging. Around the same time, force spectroscopy, and force volume4 were developed to study tip-sample forces at a point, or over an area respectively. Traditionally, force spectroscopy and force volume are the most commonly used modes to quantitatively measure mechanical forces at the nanometer scale. Unfortunately, both techniques have suffered from slow acquisition speed and a lack of automated tools to analyze the hundreds to thousands of curves required for good statistics.

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