Physico-mechanical characterisation of cells using atomic force microscopy - Current research and methodologies

Hayden K. Webb, Vi Khanh Truong, Jafar Hasan, Russell J. Crawford, Elena P. Ivanova

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is a technique that has long been employed in materials science, but is now increasingly being used in the biological sciences. AFM provides excellent topographical information on prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell surfaces, and the extracellular material produced by the cells. It helps to generate important data on the mechanical properties of cells, such as hardness and elasticity. AFM can also be used to measure the strength of adhesion, attraction, and repulsion forces between cells and surfaces or even between individual molecules. Additionally, by combining AFM with other complementary techniques such as fluorescence microscopy or Raman spectroscopy, the chemistry of given surface structures can be identified. This review aims to provide an update on the AFM techniques currently used in cell biology studies, along with a description of the range of recently developed research methodologies in which AFM plays a key role.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-139
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Microbiological Methods
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Cell adhesion
  • Cell elasticity
  • Force spectroscopy


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