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Opto-nanomechanical spectroscopic material characterization


The non-destructive, simultaneous chemical and physical characterization of materials at the nanoscale is an essential and highly sought-after capability. However, a combination of limitations imposed by Abbe diffraction, diffuse scattering, unknown subsurface, electromagnetic fluctuations and Brownian noise, for example, have made achieving this goal challenging. Here, we report a hybrid approach for nanoscale material characterization based on generalized nanomechanical force microscopy in conjunction with infrared photoacoustic spectroscopy. As an application, we tackle the outstanding problem of spatially and spectrally resolving plant cell walls. Nanoscale characterization of plant cell walls and the effect of complex phenotype treatments on biomass are challenging but necessary in the search for sustainable and renewable bioenergy. We present results that reveal both the morphological and compositional substructures of the cell walls. The measured biomolecular traits are in agreement with the lower-resolution chemical maps obtained with infrared and confocal Raman micro-spectroscopies of the same samples. These results should prove relevant in other fields such as cancer research, nanotoxicity, and energy storage and production, where morphological, chemical and subsurface studies of nanocomposites, nanoparticle uptake by cells and nanoscale quality control are in demand.

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Figure 1: Biomass study at various chemical processing stages involved in biofuel production.
Figure 2: Experimental set-up of HPFM.
Figure 3: HPFM characterization of biomass revealing nanoscale features.
Figure 4: Nanoscale characterization of chemical processing.
Figure 5: Broadband nanospectroscopy with HPFM.


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This work was sponsored by the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). L.T. acknowledges partial support from ORNL's Wigner Fellowship Program. The authors thank the BESC scientists S. Jung and A. Ragauskas at Georgia Institute of Technology for providing the samples and M. Davis and R. Sykes at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for providing the Populus stems that were used for cross-sectioning. BESC is a US Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Research Center supported by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the DOE Office of Science. ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle, LLC, for the US DOE under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725.

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All authors contributed to the manuscript. A.P. and R.H.F. performed the revisions, new measurements and data analysis. B.H.D. provided plant biological expertise.

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Correspondence to A. Passian.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Tetard, L., Passian, A., Farahi, R. et al. Opto-nanomechanical spectroscopic material characterization. Nature Nanotech 10, 870–877 (2015).

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