Infrared scanning near-field optical microscopy investigates order and clusters in model membranes


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Due to its surface sensitivity and high spatial resolution, scanning near-field optical microscopy (SNOM) has a significant potential to study the lateral organization of membrane domains and clusters. Compared to other techniques, infrared near-field microscopy in the spectroscopic mode has the advantage to be sensitive to specific chemical bonds. In fact, spectroscopic SNOM in the infrared spectral range (IR-SNOM) reveals the chemical content of the sample with a lateral resolution around 100 nm (Cricenti et al., 1998a, 1998b, 2003).

Model lipid membranes were studied by IR-SNOM at several wavelengths. Topographical micrographs reveal the presence of islands at the surface and the optical images indicate the formation of locally ordered multiple bilayers – both critically important features for biotechnology and medical applications.