Infrared scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy (IR s-SNOM) and imaging is here exploited together with attenuated total reflection (ATR) IR imaging and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to depict the chemical composition of fibers in hybrid electrospun meshes. The focus is on a recently developed bio-hybrid material for vascular tissue engineering applications, named Silkothane®, obtained in the form of nanofibrous matrices from the processing of a silk fibroin-polyurethane (SFPU) blend via electrospinning. Morphology and chemistry of single fibers, at both surface and subsurface level, have been successfully characterized with nanoscale resolution, taking advantage of the IR s-SNOM capability to portray the nanoscale depth profile of this modern material working at diverse harmonics of the signal. The applied methodology allowed to describe the superficial characteristics of the mesh up to a depth of about 100 nm, showing that SF and PU do not tend to co-aggregate to form hybrid fibers, at least at the length scale of hundreds of nanometers, and that subdomains other than the fibrillar ones can be present. More generally, in the present contribution, the depth profiling capabilities of IR s-SNOM, so far theoretically predicted and experimentally proven only on model systems, have been corroborated on a real material in its natural conditions with respect to production, opening the room for the exploitation of IR s-SNOM as valuable technique to support the production and the engineering of nanostructured materials by the precise understanding of their chemistry at the interface with the environment.
It is well-known that all the phases of the manufacturing influence the extraordinary aesthetic and acoustic features of Stradivari’s instruments. However, these masterpieces still keep some of their secrets hidden by the lack of documentary evidence. In particular, there is not a general consensus on the use of a protein-based ground coating directly spread on the wood surface by the Cremonese Master. The present work demonstrates that infrared scattering-type scanning near-fields optical microscopy (s-SNOM) may provide unprecedented information on very complex cross-sectioned microsamples collected from two of Stradivari’s violins, nanoresolved chemical sensitivity being the turning point for detecting minute traces of a specific compound, namely proteins, hidden by the matrix when macro or micro sampling approaches are exploited. This nanoresolved chemical-sensitive technique contributed new and robust evidence to the long-debated question about the use of proteinaceous materials by Stradivari.
The growing demand for innovative means in biomedical, therapeutic and diagnostic sciences has led to the development of nanomedicine. In this context, naturally occurring tubular nanostructures composed of rolled sheets of alumino-silicates, known as halloysite nanotubes, have found wide application. Halloysite nanotubes indeed have surface properties that favor the selective loading of biomolecules. Here, we present the first, to our knowledge, structural study of DNA-decorated halloysite nanotubes, carried out with nanometric spatially-resolved infrared spectroscopy. Single nanotube absorption measurements indicate a partial covering of halloysite by DNA molecules, which show significant structural modifications taking place upon loading. The present study highlights the constraints for the use of nanostructured clays as DNA carriers and demonstrates the power of super-resolved infrared spectroscopy as an effective and versatile tool for the evaluation of immobilization processes in the context of drug delivery and gene transfer.