e-Journal of Surface Science and Nanotechnology
Online ISSN : 1348-0391
ISSN-L : 1348-0391
Rohrer Medal Lecture
Advances in AFM: Seeing Atoms in Ambient Conditions
Alfred J. WeymouthDaniel WastlFranz J. Giessibl
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2018 Volume 16 Pages 351-355


It's hard to imagine that we can take a splinter and sharpen it down to the atomic level. It's even more impressive that we can bring this sharp tip close to a surface, scan it over the surface, and be sensitive to the tiny forces between the apex atom and individual atoms on the surface. Measuring and interpreting these forces is the goal of high-resolution atomic force microscopy (AFM). We perform frequency-modulation AFM (FM-AFM), in which we oscillate the tip and record the change in frequency as a measure of the interaction with the surface. FM-AFM performed in vacuum with stiff sensors has lead to amazing discoveries. Now, we are returning to the challenge of imaging samples in device- and biologically-relevant conditions. This contribution summarizes work that was performed in the Giessibl group to image with atomic resolution in ambient and liquid environments. We demonstrated atomic resolution with the qPlus sensor on KBr, and followed this with investigations on graphitic surfaces. We have also shown single-atomic defects and steps on the calcite surface. [DOI: 10.1380/ejssnt.2018.351]

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