Scanning Probe Microscopy

Veeco Dimension 3100

Polystyrene latex microspheres seen using the AFM
AFM image of polystyrene latex microspheres

Scanning Probe Microscopy (SPM) covers a range of techniques in which a probe is used to scan the surface of a sample in order to form an image of the surface. The techniques produce very high resolution (typically much less than a nanometre) 3D images of the surface.

Advanages of SPM

  • no special sample preparation is required (coatings etc) prior to analysis
  • analysis is carried out under air at ambient temperatures so avoiding the use of a vacuum
  • allows living organisms to be scanned

The main disadvantage is the small scanning area compared to other techniques (e.g. SEM).

AFM image of a corrosion pit on the surface of a metal
AFM image of a corrosion pit on the surface of a metal
Techniques available

  • Contact Mode Atomic Force Microscopy – the probe is dragging along the surface of the sample in order to produce the image
  • Tapping Mode Atomic Force Microscopy – the probe is in contact with the surface intermittingly which prevent damage to the surface and allows for fragile surfaces e.g. lipid bilayers and adsorbed single polymers to be visualised
  • Electrostatic Force Microscopy (EFM) – a form of dynamic non-contact atomic form microscopy
  • Lateral Force Microscopy (LFM)
  • Magnetic Force Microscopy (MFM) – utilises a magnetic tip to scan a magnetic surface. This technique is used for the imaging of domain walls, thin films, nanoparticles, nanowires, permalloy disks and recording media.
  • Phase Imaging Force Modulation (FMM)
  • Conductive Atomic Force Microscopy (CAFM) – uses and electric current to construct the surface image.
  • Scanning Capacitance Microscopy (SCM) – requires and almost flat surface in order to produce an image.

The SPM is also equipped with a fluid cell for electrochemistry.

Submit an enquiry

If you are unsure of your requirements, please submit an enquiry using the link above. We can offer bespoke testing parameters tailored to your needs.

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Contact Details

College of Science and Engineering
Physics Building
University of Leicester 
Tel: 0116 252 3497