Nanoinstrumentation and Force Spectroscopy

The LCIMB’s Nanoinstrumentation and Force Spectroscopy (NFS) Section develops specialized instrumentations, biophysical modeling, and their applications primarily for nanoscale characterizations at macromolecular, cellular and tissue level in selected areas of biomedical research and medicine.  

Development of AFM nanotechnologies

NFS Section co-develops and shares a core biological atomic force microscopy (BioAFM) facility at NIBIB/NIH and extends the functionality of several commercial and developing AFM platforms towards higher speed and resolution and multimodal measurements to yield better insights on biomolecules, their complexes, multifunctional theranostics, cells, and tissues. Over the years, our staff has had extensive experience improving such instrumentations to investigate a broad range of biomedical samples and systems.

Biomedical studies via AFM and force spectroscopy

NFS Section continues to apply our biophysical measurement systems and technologies to a number of biomedical and biological investigations in collaboration with NIH intramural and extramural researchers. Example collaborations with notable results include: (A) Multifunctional nanomedicine probes with LOMIN/NIBIB/NIH. New results on several multifunctional nano-drug, photothermal therapy (PPT), siRNA delivery and imaging systems have been published and are being developed further towards cellular and clinical applications. (B) Macromolecular structure and nanomechanical properties of multiple malaria vaccine candidates in collaboration with NIAID/NIH. These protein antigen constructs are being produced via recombinant-protein biotechnology, purified, and characterized in a manner suitable for human trials and scale-up productions towards enhanced immunological response and eventual eradication of malaria. (C) Protein domain structure and interactions for clathrin and clathrin assemblies in receptor-mediated endocytosis and intracellular trafficking, exocytosis, and synaptic transmission.

Biological AFM capabilities

Combining high-resolution AFM under physiological conditions with sensitive force measurements and mathematical modeling to gain greater understanding of complex biological systems.

Imaging and force measurement at atomic resolution

0.1 nm special resolution under physiological conditions, dynamic changes, and temperature studies; 5 pN force and force modulation resolution.

Available equipment

  • Multimode PicoForce AFM
  • TIRF AFM (Bioscope Catalyst)
  • Raman (LabRam) AFM (XE-120)
  • Single Molecule Force Spectroscopy (SMFS) AFM (ForceRobot)
  • Open-source platforms for nanotechnologies (AFM Workshop & developing High-speed AFM)


  • Multi-modality (Raman, TIRF, NSOM, etc.)
  • Environmental Control
  • AFM Tip Functionalization
  • Surface Modifications Staff
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