First Advisor

Andres H. La Rosa

Date of Publication

Spring 5-14-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Physics






Acoustic microscopy, Nanolithography, Mesoscopic phenomena (Physics)



Physical Description

1 online resource (xvii, 202 pages)


This dissertation focuses on characterization of the mesoscopic fluid film, testing its behavior in different application scenarios, including its role in near-field scanning probe microscopy imaging, contribution to the phononic mechanism in nanotribology phenomena, utilizing it as a natural environment in the study of carbohydrate-protein interactions, and harnessing it as bridge to transport ions in the fabrication of nanostructures on responsive polymer materials.

Due to their high resolution and versatile applications in a variety of fields, the family of scanning probe microscopy (SPM) has found widespread acceptance as an analytical and fabrication tool. However, the working mechanism of SPM that allows maintaining the probe-sample distance constant is still controversial. At the heart the problem is a lack of precise knowledge about the nature of the probe-sample interaction. One key factor is the presence of a mesoscopic fluid-like layer that naturally forms at any surface at ambient condition in which most SPMs are operated. Its mesoscopic nature (~20 nm in thickness) results in extraordinary behavior compared to the properties of bulk liquid. For example, the effective shear viscosity of confined mesoscopic fluids is enhanced, and viscoelastic relaxation times are prolonged. Despite the wide use of SPM techniques in ambient air, the basis of their working mechanisms is still not well understood.

The probe-sample interaction is monitored using a combination of tuning-fork based shear force microscopy and our recently developed near-field acoustic technique. To characterize the mesoscopic fluid film a series of experiments are performed under different conditions in order to explore the benefits of having extra probing (acoustic) technique in addition to the shear-force approach. The presence of mesoscopic fluid layers as a natural environment enables the detection of protein-carbohydrate interactions. We demonstrated the capability of our shear-force/acoustic technique to monitor the rupture of chemical bonds between carbohydrate and protein pairs. Finally, we present fabrication of nanostructures via electric-field assisted dip-pen nanolithography by exploiting the responsive feature of a particular class of polymers, where the mesoscopic fluid layer also plays an important role in pattern creation.


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