The aim of the LIDER Programme, led by The National Centre for Research and Development (NCBiR), is to support researchers’ career development, especially increasing the competencies of self-reliant planning and managing a research team through the realization of application-oriented research projects. Within the programme, dr. Filippo Pierini from Department of Mechanics and Physics of Fluids (IPPT PAN) will receive financial support for realization of the project : Design, construction and optimization of a combined Atomic Force Microscope and Optical Tweezers instrument for single molecules and nanomaterials characterization.

Force plays a crucial role in physical, biological and chemical processes. The study of forces, involved in molecular and nanomaterial interactions, represents one of the most important contemporary challenges. The knowledge of mechanical forces involved in single molecules, nanomaterials and biological objects activities is fundamental in understanding their structure and function. A few techniques have been recently used to measure directly the forces required to unfold molecules, to quantify mechanical properties of biological tissues and cells, but they are invasive, slow and not precise enough to satisfy the current needs. Therefore, the aim of this project is to develop a hybrid double probe instrument which can be used to achieve these purposes. This equipment will be built by coupling an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) with another technique capable of manipulating matter at the nanoscale and to control and measure force with high resolution, sensitivity and flexibility: Optical Tweezers (OT). By using this new instrument it will be possible to detect subnanometer displacements, to measure femtonewton forces and to manipulate biological materials, living cells and nanomaterials in a non-invasive procedure.

The hybrid AFM/OT equipment will make great progress in biophysics and in the study of nanomaterials mechanical properties. AFM/OT will outspread quickly also in the areas of medicine and molecular biology.

Within the project, the new team is going to be set up. It consists of the project leader – Filippo Pierini and five other people.

Figure 1. A sketch showing the scheme of AFM/OT setup.