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Atomic Force Microscope (AFM)

Atomic Force Microscopy

Measures the atomic forces between the probe and sample Image formed by feedback loop which maintains constant tip-sample force during scanning Scans both insulators and conductors Most widely used form of SPM

Interatomic Force versus Distance Curve

Atomic Force Microscopy


Three primary modes of operation: Contact Mode AFM Non-contact Mode AFM TappingMode AFM

Contact Mode AFM

Feedback Loop Maintains Constant Cantilever Deflection

Controller Electronics

Laser

Scanner Detector Electronics


Measures A-B A+B of deflection signal

X,Y

Z
Split Photodiode Detector

Cantilever & T

ip

Sample

Contact Mode AFM


Tip is in contact with the surface. The bending of the cantilever is proportional to the contact force. The bending of the cantilever is monitored through the vertical deflection of the reflected laser on the photodetector. Feedback loop looks at the vertical deflection to maintain constant contact force during scanning.

Contact Mode AFM


Scans probe on the end of a soft cantilever (spring constant = 0.01 - 1.0N/m) across the sample surface Feedback loop maintains constant cantilever deflection during scanning Tip contacts surface through adsorbed fluid layer Tip-sample force of 10-7 to 10-11N Tip radius of curvature = 5 to 40nm Operates in air and fluid

Contact Mode AFM

Applications: Atomic and molecular resolution imaging Force-Distance Measurements Characterization of hard, rigid surfaces (metals, thin films) Some Biological Surfaces Electrochemical AFM

Contact Mode AFM Image of Al/Cu alloy film deposited on Si

10m scan

Contact Mode AFM

Disadvantages Lateral (shear) forces can damage soft or fragile samples Imaging force can be increased by: Surface tension forces due to adsorbed fluid layer Electrostatic forces Operation under fluid alleviates some of these problems

Contact Mode in Fluid

Advantages Reduces surface tension and electrostatic forces Allows samples to be imaged in native fluid environment Disadvantages Only partially alleviates lateral forces Not practical to submerge many surfaces

Contact Mode in Fluid

Contact Mode in Air

Contact Mode in Fluid

Non-contact Mode AFM


Feedback Loop Maintains Constant Oscillation Amplitude or Frequency

Controller Electronics
Frequency Synthesizer

Laser

Detector Electronics
Measures oscillation amplitude or frequency

X,Y

Scanner

Z
Split Photodiode Detector Cantilever & T ip

Sample

Non-Contact / Intermittent Contact AFM


The cantilever oscillates at its resonant frequency. Typically frequency ranges from 70 KHz to 350KHz depending on the dimension of the cantilever. The contact force is related to the amplitude of oscillation. The amplitude of oscillation is monitored using the Photodetector. The feedback loop maintains a constant contact force via keeping the Amplitude of oscillation constant.

Non-contact Mode AFM

Cantilever oscillated at or near its resonance frequency to obtain AC signal Scans probe on the end of oscillating cantilever above the adsorbed fluid layer on the sample surface Probe responds to Van der Waals forces which extend from 1nm to 10nm above the adsorbed layer Feedback loop maintains constant oscillation amplitude or frequency during scanning

Contact Mode vs Non-Contact Mode (Pros and Cons)


Contact Mode

Contact Mode vs Non-Contact Mode (Pros and Cons)


Non-Contact Mode

Non-contact Mode AFM

Advantage Nondestructive measurement Disadvantages Resolution limited by tip-sample separation Must scan slowly to avoid contacting and getting stuck in adsorbed layer Due to these disadvantages, applications for noncontact mode imaging have been limited

TappingMode AFM
Incorporates benefits of contact mode and noncontact mode while overcoming their drawbacks Scans probe on end of oscillating cantilever across the sample surface Oscillation amplitude typically >20nm Large oscillation amplitude allows tip to "tap" on the sample surface without getting stuck in adsorbed layer Feedback loop maintains constant oscillation amplitude Operates in air and fluid

TappingMode AFM
Feedback Loop Maintains Constant Oscillation

Amplitude

NanoScope IIIa Controller Electronics


Frequency Synthesizer

Laser

Scanner Detector Electronics


Measures RMS of amplitude signal

X,Y

Z
Split Photodiode Detector Cantilever & T ip

Sample

Etched Silicon Cantilever/Tip

Nominal radius of curvature = 5-10nm


100nm

TappingMode AFM

10-100 nm

"Free" Amplitude

Fluid layer "Tapping"

Amplitude reduced

TappingMode Advantages

Virtually eliminates shear (lateral) forces Reduces normal (vertical) forces Provides the high resolution of a contacting technique Allows imaging of soft, fragile, and adhesive surfaces without risk of sample damage

Comparison of Contact Mode, Non-contact Mode, and TappingMode


Contact Mode Noncontact Mode TappingMode

Resulting image profiles

TappingMode Applications

Semiconductor surfaces Data Storage Devices Thin Films Polymers Biological Surfaces (air and fluid environments) Photoresist

Optics Metals and insulators Composites Numerous other applications