AFM for Biomaterials Research

AFM allows researchers to characterize the topography and mechanical properties of biomaterials. The AFM can accurately measure surface roughness and microstructure as a function of composition and processing variables. Biomaterials can also be inspected after in vitro testing or after explantation to assess changes in surface features. A wide range of AFM techniques can be applied to measure the stiffness, moduli and dissipation of biomaterials.


  • Measure surface morphology / surface roughness
  • Measure material properties (elastic modulus, loss modulus, hardness)
  • Measure surface changes during or after exposure to liquids (e.g. as related to biocompatibility)

Common Applications

  • Implants
  • Drug coatings (e.g. stents, catheters, etc.)
  • Anti-fouling coatings (e.g. catheters, implants, biosensors, etc.)
  • Biomineralization studies
  • Tissue engineering and scaffold engineering

Crack Propagation in Bone Captured with In Situ Mechanical Testing During AFM
Bone, like all tissues, is built from structural elements starting at the nanometer scale. The generally complex and hierarchical arrangement of these basic elements into progressively larger structural features renders bone an anisotropic and anatomically distinct material adapted to specific loads and loading cases. Due to the hierarchical structure and complexity of bone, the uncovering of structure-function relationships, i.e. the origin of material properties such as strength, toughness, and fatigue resistance, is usually a non-trivial task. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) offers an approach to overcome some of these difficulties. Because AFM allows for imaging in ambient – even hydrated conditions – it is feasible to perform in situ micro-mechanical testing experiments while conducting imaging. Here we present first data obtained from a micro-tensile testing apparatus, demonstrating the power of this technique. 
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Related Webinars

	"Beyond Topography: New Advances in AFM Characterization of Polymers"

"Beyond Topography: New Advances in AFM Characterization of Polymers"

This webinar provides an overview of the AFM’s powerful capabilities for polymers characterization.

	"Getting Started with AFM in Biology – It's Easier Than You Think"

"Getting Started with AFM in Biology – It's Easier Than You Think"

Review of AFM measurements on single molecules and cells.

Selected Publications

J. Chang, X.-F. Peng, K. Hijji, J. Cappello, H. Ghandehari, S. D. Solares, and J. Seog, "Nanomechanical Stimulus Accelerates and Directs the Self-Assembly of Silk-Elastin-like Nanofibers," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 133, 1745-1747 (2011). doi:10.1021/ja110191f

B. Ercan, E. Taylor, E. Alpaslan, and T. J. Webster, "Diameter of titanium nanotubes influences anti-bacterial efficacy," Nanotechnology 22, 295102 (2011). doi:10.1088/0957-4484/22/29/295102

N. Hassan, J. Maldonado-Valderrama, A. P. Gunning, V. J. Morris, and J. M. Ruso, "Surface Characterization and AFM Imaging of Mixed Fibrinogen-Surfactant Films," J Phys. Chem. B 115, 6304-6311 (2011). doi:10.1021/jp200835j

N. Holten-Andersen, G. E. Fantner, S. Hohlbauch, J. H. Waite, and F. W. Zok, "Protective coatings on extensible biofibres," Nat. Mater. 6, 669-672 (2007). doi:10.1038/nmat1956

O. L. Katsamenis, H. M. Chong, O. G. Andriotis, and P. J. Thurner, "Load-bearing in cortical bone microstructure: Selective stiffening and heterogeneous strain distribution at the lamellar level," J. Mech. Behav. Biomed. Mater. 17, 152-165 (2013). doi:10.1016/j.jmbbm.2012.08.016

S. F. Lamolle, M. Monjo, S. P. Lyngstadaas, J. E. Ellingsen, and H J. Haugen, "Titanium implant surface modification by cathodic reduction in hydrofluoric acid: Surface characterization and in vivo performance," J. Biomed. Mater. Res. 88A, 581-588 (2009). doi:10.1002/jbm.a.31898

M. Launspach, K. Rückmann, M. Gummich, H. Rademaker, H. Doschke, M. Radmacher, and M. Fritz, "Immobilisation and characterisation of the demineralised, fully hydrated organic matrix of nacre – An atomic force microscopy study," Micron 43, 1351-1363 (2012). doi:10.1016/j.micron.2012.03.014

S. Marchesan, C. D. Easton, K. E. Styan, L. J. Waddington, F. Kushkaki, L. Goodall, K. M. McLean, J. S. Forsythe, and P. G. Hartley, "Chirality effects at each amino acid position on tripeptide self-assembly into hydrogel biomaterials," Nanoscale 6, 5172 (2014). doi:10.1039/c3nr06752a

A. A. Poundarik, T. Diab, G. E. Sroga, A. Ural, A. L. Boskey, C. M. Gundberg, and D. Vashishth, "Dilatational band formation in bone," PNAS 109, 19178-19183 (2012). doi:10.1073/pnas.1201513109

Y.-T. Sul, D. H. Kwon, B.-S. Kang, S.-J. Oh, and C. Johansson, "Experimental evidence for interfacial biochemical bonding in osseointegrated titanium implants," Clin. Oral Implants Res. 24, 8-19 (2011). doi:10.1111/j.1600-0501.2011.02355.x

K. Tai, M. Dao, S. Suresh, A. Palazoglu, and C. Ortiz, "Nanoscale heterogeneity promotes energy dissipation in bone," Nat. Mater. 6, 454-462 (2007). doi:10.1038/nmat1911

K. Videm, S. Lamolle, M. Monjo, J. E. Ellingsen, S. P. Lyngstadaas, and H J. Haugen, "Hydride formation on titanium surfaces by cathodic polarization," Appl. Surf. Sci. 255, 3011-3015 (2008). doi:10.1016/j.apsusc.2008.08.090

R. E. Wilusz, L. E. DeFrate, and F. Guilak, "Immunofluorescence-guided atomic force microscopy to measure the micromechanical properties of the pericellular matrix of porcine articular cartilage," J. R. Soc. Interface 9, 2997-3007 (2012). doi:10.1098/rsif.2012.0314

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