Research Papers in Physics and Astronomy


Date of this Version



Published in Ultramicroscopy 106 (2006) 334–340. Copyright © 2005 Elsevier B.V. Used by permission.


Since the discovery in the late 18th century of electrically induced mechanical response in muscle tissue, coupling between electrical and mechanical phenomena has been shown to be a near-universal feature of biological systems. Here, we employ scanning probe microscopy (SPM) to measure the sub-Angstrom mechanical response of a biological system induced by an electric bias applied to a conductive SPM tip. Visualization of the spiral shape and orientation of protein fibrils with 5 nm spatial resolution in a human tooth and chitin molecular bundle orientation in a butterfly wing is demonstrated. In particular, the applicability of SPM-based techniques for the determination of molecular orientation is discussed.

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