Knowledge base: Atomic Force Microscope/Scanning Probe Microscope

Angstrom Advanced Inc. offers a wide variety of Atomic Force Microscopes (AFM's) to suit your research needs. Angstrom Advanced Inc. instruments are specifically designed with versatility in mind and can be expanded to meet new research demands. Years of innovation and design have lead to the Angstrom Advanced Inc. AFMs leading the industry in high-precision, low noise, low drift and measurements, which deliver artifact-free images in minutes. Functionality, usability and precise results combined with large sample platforms which save time and hassle. Angstrom Advanced AFM scientists and technical support staff provide premier service world wide to assist in much needed research.

Knowledge base: Introduction of Atomic Force Microscope and Scanning Force Microscope

The AFM consists of a cantilever with a sharp tip (probe) at its end that is used to scan the specimen surface. The cantilever is a silicon or silicon nitride with a tip radius of curvature on the order of nanometers. When the tip is brought into proximity of a sample surface, forces between the tip and the sample lead to a deflection of the cantilever according to Hooke's law. Depending on the situation, forces that are measured in AFM include mechanical contact force, van der Waals forces, capillary forces, chemical bonding, electrostatic forces, magnetic forces, Casimir forces, solvation forces, etc. Along with force, additional quantities may simultaneously be measured through the use of specialized types of probe. Typically, the deflection is measured using a laser spot reflected from the top surface of the cantilever into an array of photodiodes. Other methods that are used include optical interferometry, capacitive sensing or piezoresistive AFM cantilevers. These cantilevers are fabricated with piezoresistive elements that act as a strain gauge. Using a Wheatstone bridge, strain in the AFM cantilever due to deflection can be measured, but this method is not as sensitive as laser deflection or interferometry.

Atomic force microscope topographical scan of a glass surface. The micro and nano-scale features of the glass can be observed, portraying the roughness of the material. The image space is (x,y,z) = (20um x 20um x 420nm).If the tip was scanned at a constant height, a risk would exist that the tip collides with the surface, causing damage. The feedback mechanism is employed to adjust the tip-to-sample distance to maintain a constant force between the tip and the sample. The sample is mounted on a piezoelectric tube, that can move the sample in the z direction for maintaining a constant force, and the x and y directions for scanning the sample. The tip is mounted on a piezo scanner while the sample is being scanned in X and Y using another piezo block. The resulting map of the area z = f(x,y) represents the topography of the sample.

The AFM can be operated in a number of modes, depending on the application. In general, possible imaging modes are divided into contact modes and a non-contact modes where the cantilever is vibrated.