New Paper: Nanofiber Analysis

April 8, 2016 — By Sean R. Koebley
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Nanoscale and microscale fibers are responsible for the exceptional mechanical properties of some of the highest-performing natural materials (e.g. bone, wood, and spider silk) and some of the best engineering materials (e.g. carbon nanofibers and carbon nanotubes). The bulk properties of these materials are derived from their nanofibrillar composition—thus, a determination of the mechanical properties of the nanofibers themselves is crucial. However, the handling and mechanical characterization of nanofibers is a daunting experimental challenge because of their size.

To address this challenge, we published a review in Nanoscale (2015 Impact factor: 7.8) in collaboration with Prof. Andreas Fery from the Institute for Polymer Research in Dresden (Germany). Applied Science PhD student Sean Koebley is joint first author with Ben Neugirg; Prof. Schniepp is a corresponding author. The paper describes recent progress in the characterization of nanofibers using the atomic force microscope (AFM), a tool with nanoscale resolution in force sensing and manipulation. The AFM can be used in several possible modes to probe nanofibers (see figure), with each mode offering advantages and disadvantages dependent on the samples and experimental constraints. By reviewing best practices, specific conditions relevant to each mode, and outlining the outstanding challenges that remain to be addressed, we provide a toolbox of skills and knowledge that allows other researchers to perform an informed AFM-based assessment of a nanofiber's mechanical properties. In doing so, we hope to accelerate the development of next-generation nanofibrillar materials that mimic nature's strongest, toughest structures.


B. R. Neugirg, S. R. Koebley, H. C. Schniepp* & A. Fery*
“AFM-based mechanical characterization of single nanofibres”
Nanoscale 8, 8414–8426 (2016)
PDF Download: Download
DOI: 10.1039/C6NR00863A
Publisher's Web Page:
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