The work brings together the force measuring and manipulation power of AFM with SEM, the tool of choice for observing nanomaterials, to grab single nanofibres and then tensile test to failure while observing in real time.

Using the set-up, the team was able to apply forces and record the deformation behaviour of individual nanofibres obtained from both natural sources and synthetically manufactured (electrospun) material.

A range of mechanical performances were observed in the nanofibres. What’s more, the AFM-SEM set-up was able to record this mechanical response in the nanofibres’ natural hydrated state.

While this study focused on nanofibres, the experimental method is flexible enough to mechanically test a wide range of nanomaterials of different geometries.

More information can be found in the journal Nanotechnology.