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Webinar: Geoscience Applications of Photo-induced Force Microscopy for Nanoscale Chemical Imaging

PiFM can image both organic and inorganic materials at a resolution of less than 10 nm. Learn about exciting geoscience applications of PiFM!


The live event is over—watch the recording now!

Join Dr. Derek Nowak and Dr. Laura Otter to learn about geochemical research applications of Photo-induced Force Microscopy (PiFM), a revolutionary nano-IR technique that provides ‘FTIR like’ spectra with a spatial resolution less than 10 nm!

PiFM combines atomic force microscopy (AFM) with infrared (IR) spectroscopy to acquire both topography and IR absorption data simultaneously. With the ability to detect chemical monolayers, a sub-10 nm spatial resolution, and extremely fast acquisition times, PiFM is the most capable AFM-IR technique available. Dr. Derek Nowak will begin by introducing the technique and it’s capabilities before Dr. Laura Otter explains geoscience specific applications.

In her presentation, Laura Otter will provide a brief introduction into biominerals and their diverse applications across geochemistry, paleoclimate research, and material sciences. She will demonstrate that biominerals are challenging to analyze at high spatial resolution, due to their beam-sensitive organic-inorganic nano-composite nature and hierarchical architecture. In the main part of her presentation, she will demonstrate that PiFM offers an ideal combination of sub-nano-scale imaging and ‘FTIR-like’ molecular compound identification that is excellently suited to investigate hydrous, organic-rich, beam-sensitive materials. She will introduce nacre or mother-of-pearl as a prominent example of a hierarchical bio-composite material.


Laura M. Otter Headshot

Laura M. Otter, Ph.D.

Australian National University, Research School of Earth Sciences

Dr. Laura M. Otter is a geochemist by training. She received her Bachelor (2012) and Master of Science (2015) from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. Laura gained hands-on research experience, in her time as a research assistant at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, where she investigated the formation of manganiferous rock varnish, an important paleoclimate proxy archive in desert regions. In 2016, she moved to Australia to resume her interest in the biomineralization of marine mollusks and the gemmology of cultured pearls via a PhD at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. In her PhD, Laura developed a new approach to high-resolution pulse-chase label living bivalves in aquaculture experiments that provided unprecedented new insights into the fundamental growth processes of bivalve shells. Her PhD project was recognized by the German Mineralogical Society via a Beate Mocek Award in 2019.

Laura is currently employed with the Australian National University’s Research School of Earth Sciences as a postdoctoral fellow. Today, Laura’s research focuses on aspects of biogeochemistry and biomineralization. She uses an interdisciplinary approach merging aspects of marine aquaculture, structural biology, material sciences, and gemmology and applies a range of micro to atomic-scale analytical techniques. Currently, Laura is researching the biomineralization processes and growth dynamics of bivalve shells and the properties of cultured pearls across all length-scales and how they are affected by ocean acidification and global warming.

Derek Nowak headshot

Derek Nowak, Ph.D.

Molecular Vista, Director of Applications

Derek received a Ph.D. in applied physics from Portland State University in 2010. He currently leads the product and customer applications team for optical force detection microscope development at Molecular Vista where he splits his time as a Staff Scientist and Director of Applications. As a member of the original development team and developer of many of the imaging modalities, Derek is thoroughly knowledgeable of the microscope’s capabilities. Derek uses his expertise to aid customers in new experimental techniques and complex data analysis. Many of these interactions with customers have resulted in joint publications using Photo-induced Force Microscopy (PiFM) research applications. Derek has conducted extensive hands-on research in near field techniques, including Tip Enhanced Near-field Optical Microscopy (TENOM), Tip Enhanced Raman Scattering (TERS), and force detection of near-field optical absorption Photo-induced Force Microscopy (PiFM).

For Derek’s dissertation work, “The Design of a Novel Tip Enhanced Near-field Scanning Probe Microscope for Ultra-High Resolution Optical Imaging”, Derek implemented antenna-based geometries to determine different resonance conditions that would increase near-field signal-to-noise while suppressing background far-field contributions. To complete this work, Derek developed a custom SPM system from the ground up using custom FPGA code, electronics, mechanical design and software. Derek currently maintains a faculty appointment at Portland State University and has received many nominations for teaching excellence while he was a professor at Portland State University.


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