A scanning probe microscope, such as an atomic force microscope (AFM) or a scanning tunneling microscope (STM), is operated in a stationary mode on a site where an activity of interest occurs to measure and identify characteristic time-varying micromotions caused by biological, chemical, mechanical, electrical, optical, or physical processes. The tip and cantilever assembly of an AFM is used as a micromechanical detector of characteristic micromotions transmitted either directly by a site of interest or indirectly through the surrounding medium. Alternatively, the exponential dependence of the tunneling current on the size of the gap in the STM is used to detect micromechanical movement. The stationary mode of operation can be used to observe dynamic biological processes in real time and in a natural environment, such as polymerase processing of DNA for determining the sequence of a DNA molecule.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.