Scanning ion conductance microscopy (SICM) is a nanopipette-based technique that has traditionally been used to image topography or to deliver species to an interface, particularly in a biological setting. This article highlights the recent blossoming of SICM into a technique with a much greater diversity of applications and capability that can be used either standalone, with advanced control (potential–time) functions, or in tandem with other methods. SICM can be used to elucidate functional information about interfaces, such as surface charge density or electrochemical activity (ion fluxes). Using a multi-barrel probe format, SICM-related techniques can be employed to deposit nanoscale three-dimensional structures and further functionality is realized when SICM is combined with scanning electrochemical microscopy (SECM), with simultaneous measurements from a single probe opening up considerable prospects for multifunctional imaging. SICM studies are greatly enhanced by finite-element method modelling for quantitative treatment of issues such as resolution, surface charge and (tip) geometry effects. SICM is particularly applicable to the study of living systems, notably single cells, although applications extend to materials characterization and to new methods of printing and nanofabrication. A more thorough understanding of the electrochemical principles and properties of SICM provides a foundation for significant applications of SICM in electrochemistry and interfacial science.
A contribution to the special feature ‘Biological imaging using electrochemical tools’.
- Received December 6, 2016.
- Accepted March 13, 2017.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.