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Research Fellows Directory

Mervyn Miles

Professor Mervyn Miles

Research Fellow


University of Bristol

Research summary

My main area of expertise are in the development of atomic force microscopy (AFM) for application to biological samples and the development and application of holographic optical tweezers. AFM does not use lenses to form the magnified (3D) image but rather 'feels' the sample surface using a sharp tip in a manner similar to how a record player feels the undulations in the record groove but at the nanometre scale in the case of AFM. Our recent improvements to AFM have increased the rate at which images of the sample can be captured to video rate and beyond, i.e., about 100,000 times faster than before. We are also just beginning to obtain images of DNA from our unique high-speed non-contact AFM. In this microscope, the sharp tip senses the sample surface without actually touching it. This technique is about to be used to investigate Prion Disease. A second area of scientific interest is the use of holographic tweezers to manipulate nanotools. This programme has been in collaboration with Prof. Padgett's group at Glasgow University. Beams of laser light, focused using dynamic holograms, can trap microscopic particles. This means that we can manipulate particles and even living cells in three dimensions. We can also trap and steer a sharp nanorod so that it can act as an AFM tip and generate images, and now we can image all the way around the sample to that record the complete surface of a particle such as a virus, an alga, or a pollen grain. In fact, it is possible for multiple probes to operate simultaneously so that images can be collected faster by probes operating on different parts of the sample at the same time.

The nanoscale probes developed for the high-speed vertical probe microscope have proven highly-successful as biosensors and we have demonstrated their capability to detect five blood protein marker present in blood poisoning or sepsis.

Grants awarded

High-speed non-contact force microscopy for biomolecular systems

Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Dates: Aug 2010 - Jul 2015

Value: £75,000