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Opto-nanomechanical spectroscopic material characterization

Publication Type
Journal Name
Nature Nanotechnology
Publication Date
10 August 2015

The non-destructive, simultaneous chemical and physical characterization of materials at the nanoscale is an essential and highly sought-after capability. However, a combination of limitations imposed by Abbe diffraction, diffuse scattering, unknown subsurface, electromagnetic fluctuations and Brownian noise, for example, have made achieving this goal challenging. Here, we report a hybrid approach for nanoscale material characterization based on generalized nanomechanical force microscopy in conjunction with infrared photoacoustic spectroscopy. As an application, we tackle the outstanding problem of spatially and spectrally resolving plant cell walls. Nanoscale characterization of plant cell walls and the effect of complex phenotype treatments on biomass are challenging but necessary in the search for sustainable and renewable bioenergy. We present results that reveal both the morphological and compositional substructures of the cell walls. The measured biomolecular traits are in agreement with the lower-resolution chemical maps obtained with infrared and confocal Raman micro-spectroscopies of the same samples. These results should prove relevant in other fields such as cancer research, nanotoxicity, and energy storage and production, where morphological, chemical and subsurface studies of nanocomposites, nanoparticle uptake by cells and nanoscale quality control are in demand.