Journal of materials science. Materials in medicine

Lorentz contact resonance spectroscopy for nanoscale characterisation of structural and mechanical properties of biological, dental and pharmaceutical materials.

PMID 26518012


Scanning probe microscopy has been widely used to obtain topographical information and to quantify nanostructural properties of different materials. Qualitative and quantitative imaging is of particular interest to study material-material interactions and map surface properties on a nanoscale (i.e. stiffness and viscoelastic properties). These data are essential for the development of new biomedical materials. Currently, there are limited options to map viscoelastic properties of materials at nanoscale and at high resolutions. Lorentz contact resonance (LCR) is an emerging technique, which allows mapping viscoelasticity of samples with stiffness ranging from a few hundred Pa up to several GPa. Here we demonstrate the applicability of LCR to probe and map the viscoelasticity and stiffness of 'soft' (biological sample: cell treated with nanodiamond), 'medium hard' (pharmaceutical sample: pMDI canister) and 'hard' (human teeth enamel) specimens. The results allowed the identification of nanodiamond on the cells and the qualitative assessment of its distribution based on its nanomechanical properties. It also enabled mapping of the mechanical properties of the cell to demonstrate variability of these characteristics in a single cell. Qualitative imaging of an enamel sample demonstrated variations of stiffness across the specimen and precise identification of enamel prisms (higher stiffness) and enamel interrods (lower stiffness). Similarly, mapping of the pMDI canister wall showed that drug particles were adsorbed to the wall. These particles showed differences in stiffness at nanoscale, which suggested variations in surface composition-multiphasic material. LCR technique emerges as a valuable tool for probing viscoelasticity of samples of varying stiffness's.