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No compromises: JILA's short, flexible, reusable AFM probe
Date:4/9/2014

lso added a protective glass cap over the gold coating at the end of the cantilever to retain beneficial reflectivity, and then removed the remaining gold to gain force stability. The modified cantilever enables rapid, precise and stable force measurements across a broad range of operating frequencies.

"Previously, we had to average the Brownian (random) motion of our favorite cantilever for about 60 milliseconds to get a measurement that had a precision of 1 piconewton," JILA/NIST biophysicist Tom Perkins says. "Now, we can get the same precision in 1 millisecond or so."

JILA researchers demonstrated significant benefits for single molecule studies. For instance, the short, soft cantilevers can quickly measure abrupt changes in force when a protein unfolds. Protein folding is required for proper biological function and misfolding can lead to diseases such as Alzheimer's. The new cantilevers match the response of stiffer, unmodified cantilevers but with greater stability and precision. Force stability is crucial in this application because protein folding and unfolding rates are exponentially sensitive to tiny changes (smaller than 1 piconewton) in applied load. The new device also can track fleeting nanoscale events, including protein folding, over hundreds of secondsmuch longer periods than previously possible. The new design should also be applicable to rapid probing of the mechanical properties of materials at the nanoscale.

Significantly, the new cantilevers are robust enough to be reused for multiple days. Moreover, JILA researchers say the new design is simple and inexpensive to make, and thus, suitable for routine use.

"Amazingly, this project was spearheaded by a talented undergraduate. We hope other groups with similarly talented students will adopt these cantilevers. We certainly are," Perkins said.


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Contact: Laura Ost
laura.ost@nist.gov
303-497-4880
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Source:Eurekalert  

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