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J Nanosci Nanotechnol. 2003 Dec;3(6):496-502.

Biological imaging with a near-field optical setup.

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  • 1School of Pharmacy, University of Bradford, Bradford, United Kingdom.


Noncontact scanning near-field optical microscope (SNOM) systems can be used to optically resolve samples in atmospheric conditions at theoretical resolutions comparable to those of transmission electron microscope and atomic force microscope systems. SNOM systems are also increasingly used to image biological samples. In this study we custom built a SNOM system with the aim of further demonstrating the potential applications of near-field optical examination of biological material. In this study we were able to image both fixed whole-cell samples in air and liquid environments and live whole-cell samples in liquids. The images acquired were of a relatively low resolution, but this work has shown that SNOM systems can be used to monitor the dynamics of living cells at subnanometric resolutions in the z axis and for fluorescent imaging of whole cells in a liquid medium.

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