Atomic force microscopy

Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is a very high-resolution type of scanning probe microscopy, with demonstrated resolution about fractions of a nanometer, more than 1000 times better than the optical diffraction limit. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) was developed when people tried to extend STM technique to investigate the electrically non-conductive materials like proteins because of STM can only image conducting or semiconducting surfaces. The AFM, however, has the advantage of imaging almost any type of surface, including polymers, ceramics, composites, glass, and biological samples.

Mechanism of AFM
The AFM is one of the foremost tools for imaging, measuring, and manipulating matter at the nanoscale. AFM consists of a cantilever with a sharp tip (probe) at its end that be used to scan the specimen surface and provide the information be gathered by "feeling" the surface with a mechanical probe. In original AFM consisted of a diamond sharp tip that contacted the surface directly, with the interatomic forces providing the interaction mechanism but additional force quantities may simultaneously be measured through the use of specialized types of probes (scanning thermal microscopy, scanning joule expansion microscopy, photo-thermal micro-spectroscopy, etc.). In AFM, the cantilever is typically silicon or silicon nitride with a tip radius of curvature about 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, Vander Waals forces, capillary forces, chemical bonding, electrostatic forces, magnetic forces (magnetic force microscope, MFM) etc. 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 interferometer.

Piezoelectric scanners
Piezoelectric elements that facilitate tiny but accurate and precise movements on (electronic) command enable the very precise scanning, which expands and contracts proportionally to an applied voltage. Whether they elongate or contract depends upon the polarity of the voltage applied. In scanning, if the tip was situated at a constant height, a risk would exist that the tip collides with the surface, causing damage. Hence, in most cases a feedback mechanism is employed to adjust the tip-to-sample distance to maintain a constant force between the tip and the sample. Traditionally, the sample is mounted on

y) represents the topography of the sample. the cantilever is "dragged" across the surface of the sample and the contours of the surface are measured directly using the deflection of the cantilever. Sensitivity varies non-linearly with respect to scan size. These changes in oscillation with respect to the external reference oscillation provide information about the sample's characteristics . In the dynamic mode. Force Imaging modes The AFM can be operated in a number of modes. In general. Alternatively a 'tripod' configuration of three piezo crystals may be employed. possible imaging modes are divided into static (also called contact) modes and a variety of dynamic (non-contact or "tapping") mode. In newer designs. Fig: Probe distance from sample vs. Because of differences in material or size. with each responsible for scanning in the x. This eliminates some of the distortion effects seen with a tube scanner. This design is known as a 'closed loop' AFM. y and z directions. the tip is mounted on a vertical piezo scanner while the sample is being scanned in X and Y using another piezo block. the sensitivity varies from scanner to scanner. which is the ratio of piezo movement to piezo voltage.a piezoelectric tube that can move the sample in the z direction for maintaining a constant force. The resulting map of the area z = f(x. the cantilever is externally oscillated at or close to its fundamental resonance frequency or a harmonic. Scanners are characterized by their sensitivity. and the x and y directions for scanning the sample. depending on the application. phase and resonance frequency. Non-sensored piezo AFM is referred to as 'open loop' AFM. Tip-sample interaction forces modify the oscillation amplitude. Piezo scanner is more sensitive at the beginning of a scan and decreases exponentially with time. In static mode.

001-100 N/m and the applied forces between the tip and the sample typically range from 10-11 to 10-7 N. The changes in the oscillation usually involve a decrease in resonant frequency. Non-contact mode In this mode. 0. and onto a pair or array of position-sensitive photo detectors. Phase shifts can be used to distinguish different surface materials from each other. electrostatic. low stiffness cantilevers are used to boost the deflection signal. since there is a maximum distance for the inter-atomic forces to become detectable. Frequency modulation can be used to get information about the sample's properties. the cantilever is driven to oscillate up and down at near its resonance frequency by a small piezoelectric . In tapping mode. These changes in oscillation characteristics can be used to generate a map that characterizes the surface of the sample. most samples develop a liquid meniscus layer. However. Thus. The force between the tip and the sample causes the cantilever to deflect in accordance with Hooke's Law. In ambient conditions. the static tip deflection is used as a feedback signal. Because the measurement of a static signal is prone to noise and drift. amplitude modulation can provide information about the sample's topography. where the amplitude of oscillation is typically10-100 nm. the tendency of most samples to develop a liquid meniscus layer in ambient conditions complicates this task. the tip of the cantilever does not contact the sample surface.Contact mode In the static mode operation. For instance. causing the tip to "snap-in" to the surface.4 nm thick chains of synthetic polyelectrolyte) under liquid medium. exhibiting a spring constant that typically ranges 0. a decrease in amplitude. and a phase shift. which is brought in contact with the surface of the sample. Furthermore. interaction forces (Vander Waals. Dynamic contact mode also called tapping mode that developed to bypass this problem. Consequently. static mode AFM is usually done in contact where the overall force is repulsive. close to the surface of the sample. Tapping mode Tapping mode is gentle enough even for the visualization of supported lipid bi-layers or adsorbed single polymer molecules (for instance. keeping the probe tip close enough to the sample for short-range forces to become detectable while preventing the tip from sticking to the surface presents a major problem for non-contact dynamic mode in ambient conditions. This deflection is measured by reflecting light from a laser diode off the back of the beam. The differences between the reflected light received by the individual photo detectors indicate the amount of angular deflection of the cantilever at any given point on the sample. magnetic. Contact mode imaging employs a soft-cantilevered beam that has a sharp tip at its end. or capillary forces) between the tip and the sample modify the oscillation. Non-contact imaging employs a small piezo element mounted under the cantilever to make it oscillate at its resonance frequency. One challenge in noncontact imaging is being able to keep the correct tip-to-sample distance while preventing the tip from touching the surface. attractive forces can be quite strong. this technique is typically called "contact mode". Because of this.

dipole-dipole interactions. Uses of AFM include the following examples. typically 100 to 200 nm. cause the amplitude of this oscillation to decrease as the tip gets closer to the sample. and polishing.  Coupling of thin magnetic films  Properties of exchange-bias system  Phase transitions in ferroelectrics  Distribution and pinning of flux vortices in superconductors  Two-dimensional electron gases  Switching field distributions in bit-patterned media  Low temperature AFM . An electronic servo uses the piezoelectric actuator to control the height of the cantilever above the sample. cleaning. ceramics. and semiconductors. plating. friction. synthetic and biological membranes. AFM uses for various purposes. Angular displacement of the cantilever results in one photodiode collecting more light than the other photodiode. etc) acting on the cantilever when the tip comes close to the surface. Set cantilever oscillation amplitude of the servo adjusts the height to maintain as the cantilever is scanned over the sample. The interaction of forces (Vander Waals forces. corrosion. A long beam path (several centimeters) amplifies changes in beam angle. lubricating. producing an output signal (the difference between the photodiode signals normalized by their sum) which is proportional to the deflection of the cantilever.  AFM can image surface of material in atomic resolution and measure force at the nano-Newton scale  AFM is also used in determining the following properties that given below. glasses. electrostatic forces. AFM cantilever deflection measurement Laser light from a solid state diode is reflected off the back of the cantilever and collected by a position sensitive detector (PSD) consisting of two closely spaced photodiodes whose output signal is collected by a differential amplifier. Application In industry. However. the amplitude of this oscillation is greater than 10 nm. adhesion.  Materials Investigated: Thin and thick film coatings. A tapping AFM image is therefore produced by imaging the force of the intermittent contacts of the tip with the sample surface.element mounted in the AFM tip holder similar to non-contact mode. composites. metals. It detects cantilever deflections <10 nm (thermal noise limited). etching. polymers.  Used to study phenomena of: Abrasion.

 It is slow in scanning an image. its disadvantages include the following  Limited vertical range  Limited magnification range  Data not independent of tip  Tip or sample can be damaged  The image size that it provides is much smaller than what electron microscopes can create.Advantage The advantages of AFM over electron microscopy include the following  Easy sample preparation  Accurate height information  Works in vacuum. . Disadvantage On the other hand. and liquids  Living systems can be studied  It generates true. air. unlike an electron microscope which does it in almost real-time. 3-dimensional surface images.  It does not require special sample treatments that can result in the sample's destruction or alteration.

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