Atomic Force Microscopy Images

Nanosurf AFMs are used for applications ranging from material characterizations to biological samples like live cells. On this page you can browse the gallery of all our published atomic force microscopy images. All AFM images in this gallery were measured with a Nanosurf AFM. click through to read more about each application. For a more in-depth search of applications by topic, visit the applications page.

Jump to STM image gallery

Scanning Tunneling Microscope Images

Scanning tunneling microscopy makes it possible to see individual atoms. Since STM is based on quantum tunneling, where a voltage difference (bias) is applied between the tip and the sample surface, it only is applicable to metal surfaces or other conducting materials. View this gallery of STM images for examples of different surfaces at atomic resolution (single atoms are discernible).

About AFM

Nanosurf AFMs are used for applications ranging from material characterizations to biological samples like live cells. On this page you can browse the gallery of all our published atomic force microscopy images. All AFM images in this gallery were measured with a Nanosurf AFM. Click through to read more about each application. For a more in-depth search of applications by topic, visit the applications page.

The field of scanning probe microscopy (SPM) began in the early 1980s with the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) by Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer, awarded with the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986. In the same year, a major breakthrough was made with the invention of atomic force microscope (AFM) by Gerd Binning, Calvin Quate and Christoph Gerber, which continues to revolutionize nanoscale characterization and measurements ever since. Today AFM is the most popular type of SPM, causing the terminology of AFM and SPM to be often used synonymously. In case of AFM, the probe is a cantilever, generally with a tip at its free end. The superfamily of SPM probes can also include simple metal wires (as used in STM) or glass fibers (as used for scanning nearfield optical microscopy/SNOM/NSOM).

AFM includes a variety of methods in which the probe interacts with the sample in different ways to characterize various material properties, e.g. mechanical properties (e.g. adhesion, stiffness, friction, dissipation), electrical properties (e.g. capacitance, electrostatic forces, work function, electrical current), magnetic properties, and optical spectroscopic properties. In addition to imaging, the AFM probe can be used to manipulate, write, or even pull on substrates in lithography and molecular pulling experiments.

Due to its flexibility, the atomic force microscope has become a common tool for material characterization alongside optical and electron microscopy, achieving resolutions down to the nanometer scale and beyond. The AFM can operate in environments from ultra-high vacuum to fluids, and therefore cuts across all disciplines from physics and chemistry to biology and materials science.

The AFM principle is based on the cantilever/tip assembly that interacts with the sample (probe). This AFM tip interacts with the substrate through a raster scanning motion. The up/down and side to side motion of the tip as it scans along the surface is monitored through a laser beam reflected off the cantilever. This reflected laser beam is tracked by a position sensitive photo-detector that picks up the vertical and lateral deflection of the cantilever. The deflection sensitivity of these detectors has to be calibrated in terms of how many nanometers of motion correspond to a unit of voltage measured on the detector. From the data gained through these different methods of scanning, an image is created.

Read our detailed theory section on "How does AFM work?"