MESA+ University of Twente
MESA+ NanoLab

The ultimate touch

Scanning Probe Microscopy

Scanning probe microscopy (SPM) techniques allow imaging of nanoscale surfaces and structures with atomic resolution based on various principles. They all make use of a physical probe to scan an area of a sample surface. During scanning, data are collected by a computer to generate an image of the surface, visualizing its nanoscale structure. Additionally some types of SPMs can be used as a manipulation tool to move individual atoms for creating specific patterns. In contrast to optical microscopy, SPM is a blind technique. Instead of using light for imaging, SPM uses a probe for sensing specific surface characteristics, like topography or material properties, to represent them in an image.

Among the SPM techniques, atomic force microscopy (AFM) is based on measurement of electrostatic forces between the cantilever tip and the sample surface and magnetic force microscopy (MFM) measures magnetic tip-sample interaction forces. In scanning tunneling microscopy (STM), the electrical current flowing between the cantilever tip and the sample is measured. In general, AFM is used to study non-conductive materials, including macromolecules and biological specimens. AFM is used for studies of non-conductors and is the technique more commonly used for studies of macromolecules and biological specimens.

SPM and hybrid techniques available at MAC-Twente:

  • AFM (FastScan)
  • Near-Field Scanning Optical Microscopy (NSOM)
  • Combined fluorescence microscopy and AFM (FluidFM)
  • Combined confocal Raman microscopy and AFM  
  • Combined confocal Raman microscopy and NSOM