Conclusions

This chapter illustrates the impact of new imaging techniques such as SPMs on biointerface analysis of biomaterials. SFM and STM investigations provide structural, rhe-ological, and functional information about surfaces. Force distance curves contain complex information about interactions of biofilms with the substrate. Electron microscopy as a "classical" tool complements the techniques, in particular because imaging artifacts are much better known than in SPM.

There are two trends to be seen. First, new methods are being developed, such as scanning near-field optical microscopy, another member of the SPM family. This method will combine all possibilities of optical microscopies, in particular all labelling techniques, but without the diffraction limit of resolution. However, there are still technological hurdles, in particular to produce bright and narrow light sources routinely. As soon as these problems are overcome, this method will play an increasing role in biomaterial research.

The second trend goes to multifunctional analysis on the nanometer scale, which will allow the understanding of the basic mechanisms of interaction between biological and synthetic materials. This will further help to improve biointerfaces used for biomaterials. The challenge is now to develop multifunctional tools that are easily accessible and suitable for the analysis of biomaterials based on SPM techniques, as well as in combinations with methods characterizing macroscopic properties to bridge the gap between these two worlds.

Still, all these new methods are in their infancies in their use on biomaterials. However, in the near future they will become much more common and effective and will influence the field substantially.

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