Bottom Effect in Atomic Force Microscopy Nanomechanics

Small. 2020 Sep;16(35):e2000269. doi: 10.1002/smll.202000269. Epub 2020 Aug 6.


In this work, the influence of the rigid substrate on the determination of the sample Young's modulus, the so-called bottom-effect artifact, is demonstrated by an atomic force microscopy force-spectroscopy experiment. The nanomechanical properties of a one-component supported lipid membrane (SLM) exhibiting areas of two different thicknesses are studied: While a standard contact mechanics model (Sneddon) provides two different elastic moduli for these two morphologies, it is shown that Garcia's bottom-effect artifact correction yields a unique value, as expected for an intrinsic material property. Remarkably, it is demonstrated that the ratio between the contact radius (and not only the indentation) and the sample thickness is the key parameter addressing the relevance of the bottom-effect artifact. The experimental results are validated by finite element method simulations providing a solid support to Garcia's theory. The amphiphilic nature of the investigated material is representative of several kinds of lipids, suggesting that the results have far reaching implications for determining the correct Young's modulus of SLMs. The generality of Garcia's bottom-effect artifact correction allows its application to every kind of supported soft film.

Keywords: AFM force-spectroscopy; AFM nanomechanics; bottom-effect artifact; mechanobiology; supported lipid membranes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't