Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is one of the foremost tools for imaging, measuring, and manipulating matter at the nanoscale. The information is gathered by "feeling" the surface with a mechanical probe. Piezoelectric elements that facilitate tiny but accurate and precise movements on (electronic) command enable the very precise scanning.
The Veeco Dimension 3100 is equipped with a NanoScope IIIa controller and Quadrex signal processor for 16-bit resolution on all 3 axes. The instrument operates under atmospheric pressure at room temperature and works in air, so that a full range of materials (metals, insulators, ceramics, polymers, and biological specimens) can be investigated with minimal sample preparation. It can accept samples (diameter up to 20 cm in diameter, height up to 1.5 cm, surface roughness up to 5.5 µm). The AFM is equipped with a color CCD camera, with a maximum magnification of 800x for precise placement of the probe onto the sample.
The AFM can operate in numerous imaging modes, the primary operation being atomic force microscopy (AFM) in contact mode, tapping mode, and phase imaging mode. Other data collection techniques include conductive-AFM to characterize conductivity variations; magnetic force microscopy (MFM), which uses a ferromagnetic-coated tip to probe magnetic fields; and force-distance measurements, which are performed to study attractive and repulsive forces on a tip as it approaches and retracts from the sample surface.
The AFM system is equipped with comprehensive image analysis software. Full 2D and 3D mapping and displays can be generated, with a variety of slope and flatness corrections. Ra and rms roughness calculations can be done on selected areas, as well as a multitude of additional statistical calculations.