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Calibration of colloidal probes with atomic force microscopy for micromechanical assessment.

Journal of the mechanical behavior of biomedical materials (2018-06-23)
Lukas Kain, Orestis G Andriotis, Peter Gruber, Martin Frank, Marica Markovic, David Grech, Vedran Nedelkovski, Martin Stolz, Aleksandr Ovsianikov, Philipp J Thurner

Mechanical assessment of biological materials and tissue-engineered scaffolds is increasingly focusing at lower length scale levels. Amongst other techniques, atomic force microscopy (AFM) has gained popularity as an instrument to interrogate material properties, such as the indentation modulus, at the microscale via cantilever-based indentation tests equipped with colloidal probes. Current analysis approaches of the indentation modulus from such tests require the size and shape of the colloidal probe as well as the spring constant of the cantilever. To make this technique reproducible, there still exist the challenge of proper calibration and validation of such mechanical assessment. Here, we present a method to (a) fabricate and characterize cantilevers with colloidal probes and (b) provide a guide for estimating the spring constant and the sphere diameter that should be used for a given sample to achieve the highest possible measurement sensitivity. We validated our method by testing agarose samples with indentation moduli ranging over three orders of magnitude via AFM and compared these results with bulk compression tests. Our results show that quantitative measurements of indentation modulus is achieved over three orders of magnitude ranging from 1 kPa to 1000 kPa via AFM cantilever-based microindentation experiments. Therefore, our approach could be used for quantitative micromechanical measurements without the need to perform further validation via bulk compression experiments.

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Agarose, BioReagent, for molecular biology, low EEO