Posted:Apr 28, 2023 News

Professor Toshio Ando (Distinguished Professor of Kanazawa University) is Awarded the Medal with Purple Ribbon in Spring Conferment 2023.

Professor Toshio Ando (Emeritus Professor, Distinguished Professor of Kanazawa University) was awarded the Medal with Purple Ribbon at the Spring Conferment 2023. The Medal with Purple Ribbon is a national award given to those who have made significant inventions or discoveries in science and technology or outstanding achievements in science, sports, arts, and culture.

Professor Ando received the award in recognition of his outstanding achievements in the development of high-speed atomic force microscopy (HS-AFM).


The most effective approach to understanding the functional mechanisms of biomolecules underlying life phenomena is to directly observe the structure and dynamics of individual molecules during their functional activity. However, such observation is infeasible with conventional methods such as X-ray crystallography, electron microscopy, and fluorescent microscopy. Meanwhile, the emergence of AFM enabled nanoscale visualization of biomolecules in physiological environments, but it could not observe moving samples because capturing an image took minutes.

Professor Ando aimed at enhancing the imaging rate of AFM. To this end, he developed various underlying techniques such as high-speed scanners, vibration damping techniques, and high-speed feedback control techniques. These efforts resulted in the establishment of HS-AFM capable of filming biomolecules in less than 100 milliseconds without disturbing them. For the first time ever, this HS-AFM enabled direct observation of the structure and dynamics of individual biomolecules in action, thus opening the door to a more detailed understanding of how biomolecules function.

The HS-AFM system is commercialized and widely used all over the world. Its application has grown beyond basic life science to encompass industries that needs nanoscale observation of dynamic phenomena of materials in liquid, including those producing pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, detergents, and batteries. Consequently, HS-AFM is also contributing to the development of diverse products serving people’s daily lives.