SEM image of an SFM tip

Scanning Force Microscopy (SFM)

Scanning Force Microscopy (SFM), also known as Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), is a nanoanalytical tool to determine surface topography. It also makes it possible to determine mechanical properties (such as hardness) at the local level. A nanoscopic tip is at the heart of such a microscope. This tip is mounted on a cantilever and is scanning the sample. The interaction of the surface with the tip leads to bending of the cantilever, which can be registered with optical methods. In this way, the sample topography can be represented in an image on the micrometer or nanometer level. There are hardly any sample requirements for an analysis with Scanning Force Microscopy. Even soft surfaces, such as cells in a buffer solution can be imaged through a proper choice of operating mode (e.g. tapping mode, ...).

With modifications to the tip also physical properties other than sample topography can be determined. In this way, a number of other scanning probe techniques have been developed, such as:

  • Magnetic Force Microscopy (MFM)
  • Chemical Force Microscopy (CFM)
  • Scanning Capacitance Microscopy (SCM)

Synonyms / Related Techniques

  • Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM)