Applications of AFM in Pharmaceutical Sciences

Part of the Advances in Delivery Science and Technology book series (ADST)


Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is a high-resolution imaging technique that uses a small probe (tip and cantilever) to provide topographical information on surfaces in air or in liquid media. By pushing the tip into the surface or by pulling it away, nanomechanical data such as compliance (stiffness, Young’s Modulus) or adhesion, respectively, may be obtained and can also be presented visually in the form of maps displayed alongside topography images. This chapter outlines the principles of operation of AFM, describing some of the important imaging modes and then focuses on the use of the technique for pharmaceutical research. Areas include tablet coating and dissolution, crystal growth and polymorphism, particles and fibres, nanomedicine, nanotoxicology, drug-protein and protein-protein interactions, live cells, bacterial biofilms and viruses. Specific examples include mapping of ligand-receptor binding on cell surfaces, studies of protein-protein interactions to provide kinetic information and the potential of AFM to be used as an early diagnostic tool for cancer and other diseases. Many of these reported investigations are from 2011 to 2014, both from the literature and a few selected studies from the authors’ laboratories.


Atomic force microscopy (AFM) Bacteria and bacterial biofilms Cantilevers Drug crystal growth Drug-protein interactions Live cells Nanomedicine Nanotoxicology Pharmaceutical science Protein-protein interactions Scanning force microscopy (SFM) Viruses 


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Copyright information

© Controlled Release Society 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences (SIPBS)University of StrathclydeGlasgowUK
  2. 2.School of Pharmacy and Biomedical SciencesUniversity of PortsmouthPortsmouthUK

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