KEYWORDS: Nanosensors, Cancer, Visualization, 3D modeling, Oxygen, Surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy, Scanning electron microscopy, Transmission electron microscopy, In vivo imaging, 3D image processing
Cellular redox potential is important for the control and regulation of a vast number of processes occurring in cells. When the fine redox potential balance within cells is disturbed it can have serious consequences such as the initiation or progression of disease. It is thought that a redox gradient develops in cancer tumours where the peripheral regions are well oxygenated and internal regions, further from vascular blood supply, become starved of oxygen and hypoxic. This makes treatment of these areas more challenging as, for example, radiotherapy relies on the presence of oxygen. Currently techniques for quantitative analysis of redox gradients are limited. Surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) nanosensors (NS) have been used to detect redox potential in a quantitative manner in monolayer cultured cells with many advantages over other techniques. This technique has considerable potential for use in multicellular tumour spheroids (MTS) – a three dimensional (3D) cell model which better mimics the tumour environment and gradients that develop. MTS are a more realistic model of the in vivo cellular morphology and environment and are becoming an increasingly popular in vitro model, replacing traditional monolayer culture. Imaging techniques such as transmission electron microscopy (TEM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and helium ion microscopy (HIM) were used to investigate differences in morphology and NS uptake in monolayer culture compared to MTS. After confirming NS uptake, the first SERS measurements revealing quantitative information on redox potential in MTS were performed.
Helium ion microscopy (HIM) has been used to study nanopatterns formed in block copolymer (BCP) thin films. Owing to its’ small spot size, minimal forward scattering of the incident ion and reduced velocity compared to electrons of comparable energy, HIM has considerable advantages and provides pattern information and resolution not attainable with other commercial microscopic techniques. <p> </p>In order to realize the full potential of BCP nanolithography in producing high density ultra-small features, the dimensions and geometry of these BCP materials will need to be accurately characterized through pattern formation, development and pattern transfer processes. The preferred BCP pattern inspection techniques (to date) are principally atomic force microscopy (AFM) and secondary electron microscopy (SEM) but suffer disadvantages in poor lateral resolution (AFM) and the ability to discriminate individual polymer domains (SEM). SEM suffers from reduced resolution when a more surface sensitive low accelerating voltage is used and low surface signal when a high accelerating voltage is used. In addition to these drawbacks, SEM can require the use of a conductive coating on these insulating materials and this reduces surface detail as well as increasing the dimensions of coated features. AFM is limited by the dimensions of the probe tip and a skewing of lateral dimension results. This can be eliminated through basic geometry for large sparse features, but when dense small features need to be characterized AFM lacks reliability. With this in mind, BCP inspection by HIM can offer greater insight into block ordering, critical dimensions and, critically, line edge roughness (LER) a critical parameter whose measurement is well suited to HIM because of its’ enhanced edge contrast.<p> </p> In this work we demonstrate the resolution capabilities of HIM using various BCP systems (lamellar and cylinder structures). Imaging of BCP patterns of low molecular weight (MW)/low feature size which challenges the resolution of HIM technique. Further, studies of BCP patterns with domains of similar chemistry will be presented demonstrating the superior chemical contrast compared to SEM. From the data, HIM excels as a BCP inspection tool in four distinct areas. Firstly, HIM offers higher resolution at standard imaging conditions than SEM. Secondly, the signal generated from He<sup>+</sup> is more surface sensitive and enables visualization of features that cannot be resolved using SEM. Thirdly; superior chemical contrast enables the imaging of un etched samples with almost identical chemical composition. Finally, dimensional measurement accuracy is high and consistent with requirements for advanced lithographic masks.