Here we report the atomic-scale analysis of biological interfaces within the ferritin protein using atom probe tomography that is facilitated by an advanced specimen preparation approach. Embedding ferritin in an organic polymer resin lacking nitrogen provided chemical contrast to visualise atomic distributions and distinguish the inorganic-organic interface of the ferrihydrite mineral core and protein shell, as well as the organic-organic interface between the ferritin protein shell and embedding resin. In addition, we definitively show the atomic-scale distribution of phosphorus as being at the surface of the ferrihydrite mineral with the distribution of sodium mapped within the protein shell environment with an enhanced distribution at the mineral/protein interface. The sample preparation method is robust and can be directly extended to further enhance the study of biological, organic and inorganic nanomaterials relevant to health, energy or the environment.
ASJC Scopus subject areas