Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) Laboratory

What is Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM)?

The Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) is a microscope with a local probe, high resolution to visualize the topography of the surface of a sample but also the tribology, the mechanical, electrical or chemical behavior.

This method allows to analyze point by point the surface of the sample thanks to the scanning of a probe made of a nanometric tip. This microscope thus offers the possibility of studying objects on a very small scale.


Indeed, the very principle of microscopic study is to rely on light. However, once in the universe of the infinitely small (less than a few hundred nanometers), the observation conditioned to light becomes impossible since the limit of resolution is about 100µm. AFM allows to overcome these limits since this type of microscopy works by measuring the attractive or repulsive interactions between the tip of the AFM and the surface of the sample. The resolution of the AFM is 1Å or 0.1 nm laterally and vertically.

FILAB laboratory analysis the surfaces of your samples by AFM

Depending on the physico-chemical parameters sought, several AFM configurations can be used:

  • AFM : to characterize all types of materials, to measure roughness parameters, elasticity, adhesion, friction, and surface energy properties…
  • The SMM : ‘Scanning Microwave microscopy’ is an AFM coupled with microwave spectroscopy. The tip serves as a local microwave (gigahertz) transmitter and receiver, it allows a non-destructive topographic and tomographic analysis while keeping the essential property of the AFM: the nanometric resolution.  MMS allows to characterize all types of materials, to measure microstructural changes, to identify the presence of buried defects, to measure sub-surface mechanical stresses, to determine diffusion profiles of light elements (oxygen, nitrogen and even hydrogen!) while being non-destructive… It’s a revolution!
  • The UA-AFM is an AFM coupled with acoustic spectroscopy. Based on the same principle as ultrasound, it allows tomography at the nanometric and micrometric scales to characterize all types of materials while being non-destructive like MMS. Sensitive to density variation, it allows to reconstruct in 3d the first micrometers of a surface to identify inclusions, defects that can be a source of corrosion or breakage…
  • IR-AFM: is an AFM coupled with infrared spectroscopy. This technique based on the photothermal effect induced by laser illumination allows to obtain a chemical mapping of the surface with a nanometric resolution.

Example of benefits by AFM

  • Search for buried defects (inclusions, crystallization defects,)

  • Tomography with nanometric resolution

  • Local mechanical measurement in the context of a non-conformity or part inspection

  • Checking the homogeneity of a deposit or a surface functionalization

See also...

The positive aspects of FILAB

  • A highly qualified team

  • Responsiveness in responding to and processing requests

  • A complete analytical park of 2100m²

  • Tailor-made support

Thomas ROUSSEAU Scientific and Technical Director
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