How to unravel the chemical structure and component localization of individual drug-loaded polymeric nanoparticles by using tapping AFM-IR†
AFM-IR is a photothermal technique that combines AFM and infrared (IR) spectroscopy to unambiguously identify the chemical composition of a sample with tens of nanometer spatial resolution. So far, it has been successfully used in contact mode in a variety of applications. However, the contact mode is unsuitable for soft or loosely adhesive samples such as polymeric nanoparticles (NPs) of less than 200 nm of wide interest for biomedical applications. We describe here the theoretical basis of the innovative tapping AFMIR mode that can address novel challenges in imaging and chemical mapping. The new method enables gaining information not only on NP morphology and composition, but also reveals drug location and core–shell structures. Whereas up to now the locations of NP components could only be hypothesized, tapping AFM-IR allows accurately visualizing both the location of the NPs’ shells and that of the incorporated drug, pipemidic acid. The preferential accumulation of the drug in the NPs’ top layers was proved, despite its low concentration (<1 wt%). These studies pave the way towards the use of tapping AFM-IR as a powerful tool to control the quality of NP formulations based on individual NP detection and component quantification.
- This article is part of the themed collections: Analyst Recent HOT articles and SPEC 2018: International Society of Clinical Spectroscopy