Atomic Force Microscopy

Characterisation Installation 4
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AFM is a surface sensitive technique permitting to obtain a microscopic image of the topography of a material surface. Typical lateral image sizes are within a range of only a few Nanometers to several 10 Micrometers, whereas height changes of less than a Nanometer may be resolved.

A fine tip attached to a cantilever is scanned across the material surface and enables to measure height changes via a laser that is reflected from the rear side of the cantilever onto a segmented photodiode. The position of a laser spot on the photodiode permits to track height changes as e.g. due to a nano-particle on the surface or an atomic terrace of a single crystal surface. A feedback loop controls the tip-surface distance and therefore ensures stable imaging conditions.

Different operation modes like contact or non-contact mode can be used to optimize the imaging conditions with highest lateral resolution on one hand and least sample interaction on the other hand.

Additional surface properties may be obtained for each point of the scan like friction force by lateral force imaging and magnetization properties by magnetic force imaging. Elasticity maps of heterogeneous sample surfaces can be obtained by non-contact phase imaging utilizing the phase shift arising from the local penetration behaviour of the tip into the surface.


WARNING: Access to CNRS temporarily not available, but the technique is available at the other sites

          provided at NFFA-Europe laboratories by:

AFM: Bruker Dimension 3100 AFM

Scanning modes: tapping and contact

x/y: 2-5 nm

z: 0.05-1 nm

Scan Range x/y: 90 μm, z: 6μm

Motorized sample stage

Sample size: 150 mm dia


Optical system: 410-1845X magnification range, color video camera, motorized zoom system


Surface Science Lab @ Laboratory for Micro- and Nanotechnology


Bruker Dimension Icon Scanning Station

Z range 10 μm in imaging anf force curve modes

1Å x 1Å  x 0.1Å

Max scan size 90 μm x 90 μm typical

Full 6" wafer, 180mm x 150mm inspectable area

Digital camera, digital zoom, motorized focus

Air/Liquid/Gas/Bad Vacuum



Surface topography of hard or soft samples

Acquisition in Tapping or Peak Force Tapping modes

Bruker Dimension Icon/Fast Scan

Optical microscope to visualize sample: 5 Mpixel digital camera; 180 µm to 1465 µm viewing area; digital zoom and motorized focus

spatial resolution < 10 nm

Height resolution around 0.1 nm

Typical X-Y scan range of 90 µm by 90 µm, Z range of 10 µm (Z sensor noise level < 50 pm in closed-loop)

Motorized position stage (X-Y axis) 180 mm × 150 mm (< 3 µm repeatability)

From a few mm2 to 200 mm wafer

Air or controlled atmosphere (AFM inside a glove box with N2 : level of O2 and H2O around ppm)

Surface potential mapping by Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM)

Dopant mapping by scanning capacitance microscopy (SCM) or scanning spreading resistance microscopy (SSRM)

Mechanical information by force curve analysis (Peak Force quantitative nanomechanics, Force volume, nano-indentation)

Heater-cooler (-30 to 200 °C)



Surface topography of samples

Acquisition in non-contact mode

Omicron/ AFM VT-XA

Optical microscope to visualize sample: 5 Mpixel digital camera; manual zoom and focus

Spatial resolution < 10 nm

Height resolution around 0.1 nm

Typical X-Y scan range of 8 µm by 8 µm, Z range of 3 µm

Motorized position stage (X-Y axis) 10 mm × 10 mm

10 x 10 mm2 maximum

Ultra-High Vacuum (10-10 mbar)

Surface potential mapping by Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM)

Surface photo-voltage measurement with visible sources (red, green and blue)

Analysis at variable temperature (50 to 500 K)

Ar sputtering for surface cleaning

Sample heating up to 1000K. LEED

Auger spectroscopy

Sample transfer through vessel or UHV suitcase


AFM @ DESY NanoLab

Topographic imaging of surfaces 

AFM contact and tapping mode, STM tunnelling spectroscopy, Lateral force mode

CP-II instrument from Digital Instruments

Optical microscope for laser and sample alignment

Sub-atomic resolution in x, y, z by piezo scanner

Large area scanner (90 µm)

High resolution scanner (5 µm)

Sample size: 10 mm x 10 mm

Ambient room temperature and pressure


AFM Veeco IV + Dimension 3100 controller (N8)

Surface imaging and lithography

Common scanning modes: tapping and contact

Different AFM tips available, for different applications

x/y: 2-5 nm

z: 0.05-1 nm for topography, below 50 nm for lithography

Scan Range x/y: 90 μm, z: 6μm

Motorized sample stage

Sample size: 2mm x 2mm up to 6” dia


Optical system: 410-1845 X magnification range, color video camera, motorized zoom system



Current Sensing AFM

Piezoresponse AFM

Photoconductive AFM

Direct piezoelectric Force Microscopy

Electrostatic Force Microscopy

Kelvin Probe Force Microscopy

Scanning thermal microscopy

3omega AFM

Keysight 5100 AFM for only topography measurements

Keysight 5500LS for electrical measurements

Keysight 5500 for thermal analysis

Maximum scanning area: 50x50 μm

Maximum depth range: 8 μm (if the sample is too rough, we are not able to measure)

Ultra-sharp single crystal diamond probes ensure a state of the art lateral resolution at ambient conditions

Z resolution: 0.1 nm in ambient conditions

X, Y: maximum range 50 μm each, lateral resolution 0.01 μm

Z: maximum range 10 μm, resolution 0.1nm

X, Y stage with 15 cm of range and Z stepper motor with 3 cm of range

Scanning of almost any type of samples, both conductive and dielectric samples

Physical sample dimension limit: around 15 x 15 cm in X and Y, and 3 cm in height

No sample preparation

Possibility of scans in low humidity or nitrogen atmospheres upon request

Sample cooling and heater available, from ambient temperature to 350ºC