Atomic Force Microscopy Imaging Artifacts


Stephanie Butler Velegol Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Pennsylvania State University

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The invention of the atomic force microscope (AFM; also known as scanning probe microscope, SPM) in 1986 has revolutionized the way researchers study surfaces. Material surfaces such as metallic or polymeric thin films can be imaged under ambient conditions (air, liquids) with nanometer resolution. Furthermore, it is now possible to image biological species such as DNA, proteins, and bacteria in their natural environment. However, researchers using the AFM for imaging must do so with great care to avoid the many artifacts that can be present during imaging. It is the purpose of this article to identify these artifacts and to present ways to avoid these artifacts while using the AFM. Interestingly, the discovery of many of these artifacts has opened doors to new uses of the AFM. This will be discussed as well.