Scanning tunneling microscopy with applications to biological surfaces.

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Abstract

Each major advance in the field of microscopy has eventually been translated into major advances in the biological and medical sciences. The scanning tunneling microscope (STM) offers exciting new ways of imaging biological surfaces with resolution to the sub-molecular scale. Rigid, conductive surfaces can readily be imaged with the STM with atomic resolution. Unfortunately, few biological surfaces are sufficiently conductive or rigid enough to be examined directly with the STM. At present, non-conductive surfaces can be examined in two ways: 1) Sufficiently thin molecular layers attached to conductive substrates so that tunneling can occur through the molecules; or 2) coating or replicating non-conductive surfaces with metal layers so as to make them conductive, then imaging with the STM. We present images of biological and organic molecules obtained with these techniques that demonstrate the possibilities and limitations of each. Future advances leading to atomic resolution STM of biological surfaces depend on significant progress in the art and science of making biomaterials compatible with the restrictions of the instrument.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)174-187
Number of pages14
JournalBioTechniques
Volume7
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1989

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