Sergiu Amarie, Paul Zaslansky, Yusuke Kajihara, Erika Griesshaber, Wolfgang W. Schmahl and Fritz Keilmann
Beilstein Journal of Nanotechnology 3, p.312 (2012)
Methods for imaging of nanocomposites based on X-ray, electron, tunneling or force microscopy provide information about the shapes of nanoparticles; however, all of these methods fail on chemical recognition. Neither do they allow local identification of mineral type. We demonstrate that infrared near-field microscopy solves these requirements at 20 nm spatial resolution, highlighting, in its first application to natural nanostructures, the mineral particles in shell and bone. "nano-FTIR" spectral images result from Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy combined with scattering scanning near-field optical microscopy (s-SNOM). On polished sections of Mytilus edulisshells we observe a reproducible vibrational (phonon) resonance within all biocalcite microcrystals, and distinctly different spectra on bioaragonite. Surprisingly, we discover sparse, previously unknown, 20 nm thin nanoparticles with distinctly different spectra that are characteristic of crystalline phosphate. Multicomponent phosphate bands are observed on human tooth sections. These spectra vary characteristically near tubuli in dentin, proving a chemical or structural variation of the apatite nanocrystals. The infrared band strength correlates with the mineral density determined by electron microscopy. Since nano-FTIR sensitively responds to structural disorder it is well suited for the study of biomineral formation and aging. Generally, nano-FTIR is suitable for the analysis and identification of composite materials in any discipline, from testing during nanofabrication to even the clinical investigation of osteopathies.