This article contains a list of all the software freely available to manipulate data from Scanning Probe Microscopy (SPM), that is, Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), and Scanning Tunnelling Microscopy (STM). It does not include software designed only to load one particular format, i.e. the software provided by the instrument manufacturers, unless they are able to open other formats. It is intended to summarise the third party software available. It does not compare the quality of the software, and the order is entirely arbitrary. If you know of other software available, let me know. I do know there are two other lists of SPM software[This one and This one], although neither seem to be updated.
This list is an updated version of that which appeared in my book:"Atomic Force Microscopy", OUP, 2010, with Paul West.
List of Third Party SPM Software
Freely available, open source software for manipulation of SPM files; supports very many formats, contains many analysis tools. Available for Linux, Windows and MAC OS. Frequently updated. Available here. (http://www.gwyddion.net)
Commercial software for manipulation of SPM files; supports very many formats, contains many analysis tools. Also allows analysis of force curves in several formats. Has a purchase price, but a time-limited demonstration version is available. Frequently updated. Following acquisition of imagemet by digital surf, SPIP is being merged with the MountainsMap package (see below) . Details, purchase, and demo version here. (http://www.imagemet.com)
This package loads all of the major formats of SPM files. I have recently tried this software, and it has most of the functions required, including an unusual "report" format of data analysis. Commercial software, but a downloadable demo version is available. Recently merged with SPIP into MountainsSPIP 8.
More details here. (https://www.digitalsurf.com/software-solutions/scanning-probe-microscopy/)
Freely available software that supports many SPM file formats; and has many analysis tools. I personally like a lot the 3D rendering results from WSxM. It was originally developed by an AFM manufacturer for use with their instrument, but is now completely independent and supports very many other file formats. Unlike many third party programs, has support for force curves as well. Frequently updated. Available here. (http://www.wsxm.es/)
Commercial software from a manufacturer, but loads lots of (about 20) other formats. 30-days trial has no functional limitations. English and Russian user interface. It seems to be quite capable software, if a little cryptic. Available here. (http://www.nanoscopy.net/en/Femtoscan-D.php)
Commercial software, dedicated to analysis of force curves, supports several formats. Implements several of the common analysis techniques used for force spectroscopy, and nanoindentation data. Also supports force volume images. A licence must now be purchased to use it. Available here. (http://punias.free.fr/)
Freely available, open-source software, with versions for Windows, Mac and Linux. Like PUNIAs, this software concentrates on batch processing of force curves. Opens a small number of common file formats. Seems quite complete, and delivers thoroughly summarised results. Available here, and described in this paper.
Carpick Lab’s Software Toolbox
Some Matlab scripts to help with nanotribology research - i.e. friction measurements with the AFM. They are for Nanoscope files only. Available here. (http://nanoprobenetwork.org/software-library/welcome-to-the-carpick-labs-software-toolbox) (last time I checked this page had been "temporarily" taken down)
A version of NIH Image that has been extended to handle the loading, display and analysis of scanning microscope images. Seems to be able to open lots of file formats, but only works on MAC, so I've never tried it. Available here. (http://www.liv.ac.uk/~sdb/ImageSXM/)
Cross-platform image analysis program, not specifically designed for SPM images, but there are plugins to load MI or Nanoscope files here. I don't find it's often very useful, but some people use it, and it does have some useful functions, for e.g. particle counting. Available here. (http://rsb.info.nih.gov/ij/)
This is a cross-platform (Linux, with a Windows port) open-source package that not only analyses data, but runs hardware, too. I haven't tried it. More details here.AFM format support. Commercial software, a licence must be bought for extended use. More details here. (http://www.truegage.com)
OpenFovea is a program for analysis of force-volume files, i.e. AFM files containing spatially-resolved force curves. It is a Linux-native program with a Windows verison also available. I have not tried this software. More details here. (http://www.freesbi.ch/en/openfovea)
New (2016) package that aims to allow analysis of data from a very wide range of different microscopy methods including AFM / SPM. The program is available as a package for the Pythn programming language, meaning it's necesssary to install a verison of Python before you can use it. More details here: (https://pycroscopy.github.io/pycroscopy/about.html)
Software that's no longer maintained
MIDAS 98Program for deconvolution of AFM files. No longer updated. Appears to only open nanoscope files. Available here.
n-SurfFreeware program to open display and manipulate SPM files. It seems to have most of the common functions, but opens Veeco and NT-MDT only, and appears to be still in beta, and last updated in 2005. The website is available at www.n-surf.com.
SPM Image Magic
Note: I welcome comments/suggestions for these lists, please contact me via the "contact" page.
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The Porto AFM Workshop 2020 has been announced. This is the seventh edition of the course!
The course will run from the 6th to 9th April 2020. Our course is a training workshop aimed at any researcher or scientist, who wants to learn about AFM or increase their knowledge of the technique. Following the successful courses that have run since 2011, the course will includes several hours hands-on training in acquiring images with the atomic force microscope as well as AFM data processing. We also cover sample preparation, AFM modes, and applications in both biology and materials.
Please click the image below to download the flyer with more details.
The course is supported by AFMWorkshop, The Faculty of Sciences of The University of Porto and my research institution, LAQV/Requimte.
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The last few years have seen quite a few changes in the AFM industry with some companies disappearing, and some others being acquired. presumably some caused by the financial crisis, which has certainly affected instrument spending.
Nanotec, a small Spanish company ceased trading in 2015. Nanotec were well-known for also producing their analysis software WSxM, which in addition to running their instruments, also opened almost all AFM image formats, and had a lot of great analysis features. Fortunately, WSxM is still available.
Keysight was a spin off of Agilent, and hosted the AFM division for a few years. unfortunately, they no longer make AFMs. Agilent had bought the IP of Molecular Imaging, which was one of the "big three" at one point. Agilent did continue to develop MI instruments for a number of years. Agilent had also bought the IP of Pacific Nanotechnology, but never did anything with it.
The biggest recent change is probably that Bruker bought JPK. JPK were early leaders in successful biological AFMs, and sold particularly well in Europe. As of now, Bruker are offering some of JPK's products and www.jpk.com still exists. I kind of hope this continues as their Nanowizard AFMs are good products. Bruker also bought Anasys instruments, which make Nano-infrared microscopes, and are now offered under the Bruker brand.
Of course, in addition, a few smaller companies came and went as usual! All these changes are reflected in the page "Where to Buy - AFM Instruments", linked below.
I also link below to an interesting Post on LinkedIn from Paul West on the history of the AFM business, for those who are interested!
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AFM Manufacturer list
The following is a simple alphabetical list of, hopefully, all the AFM manufacturers in the world. If you have any additions to make, get in touch via the contact form. For AFM probes, look at the SPM Probes list, and for reference samples, see the SPM References list. Note: I have moved the companies that are no longer separate businesses to a new list, below.
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This is the second part of this article about how to write an academic paper including AFM data. If you have not already, you should read the first part here.
NOTE: Some of this content is not really specific to AFM articles, but could be applied to any experimental scientific report. These parts should already be known to you if you are writing an scientific article, but many researchers are never taught how to correctly prepare a scientific article before they start writing them. For more general guides on preparing scientific articles, check here.
Figure legend. The figure legend is an important part of the figure. It should not be too brief, e.g. “Figure 1. AFM images of samples 1 and 2.”. But it should also not be too long. It should be concise, but has to have all the information needed to enable the reader to understand the figure. It should have a description of the type of data, if necessary explain the scale of the images, and clearly identify the samples shown. For example, a good figure legend might be: “Figure 1. Representative tapping mode AFM images of samples 1 and 2. A: Height image of sample 1; B: Phase image of sample 1; C: Height image of sample 2; D: Phase image of sample 2. All images show 1𝜇m x 1𝜇m areas, and the z scales are indicated next to the height images. The arrows show the location of anomalous nanoparticles discussed in the text.”
All numeric values included in the results must be accompanied by standard errors, or standard deviation of the means. You must also say how many measurements were made. It is important to discuss how many areas were imaged, and how often the features discussed in the text occurred. It’s not acceptable to show only one image, with the assumption that it represents a whole sample!
It should go without saying that the conlcusions you make based on your AFM data must be justified. This often means that you should calculate the occurrence of specific features, so if you want to say that the surface got rougher, or features grew after treatment, you should measure this, and show means, and errors, or a histogram of results. Note that histograms can help a lot with non standard data distributions, i.e. where there are outliers.
Can lateral measurements be used in AFM? Yes - but with caution, and only sometimes. If you have samples that are small, comparable to an AFM probe tip, lateral measurements of them will be wildly erroneous with AFM. For this reason it’s nearly always preferable to use vertical measurements where possible. Lateral measurements typically only work well for features much larger than the AFM probe, so you must be careful with these. One way to reduce the effect of these errors is to deconvolve the probe shape from your images. See section 2.3.4 of Atomic Force Microscopy.
If your conclusions are based on certain small features in your images, you can present your images in a way so as to make these features clear. This can be done by:
Cropping. A nice way to highlight certain features is to show a large image as well as a cropped section magnifying the feature you wish to show.
Histogram control. Control the height range shown in your height images to highlight the part you are interested in showing. So for example, if you wish to show tiny 20 nm features, you cannot do it with a z-scale of microns in a height image.
Shading. Light shading is a routine available in all AFM processing packages (such as SPIP and Gwyddion), which can highlight small topographic differences
Including error signals or phase images. These channels are frequently better for showing small details.
Highlighting with arrows. As discussed above.
Using unusual colour schemes. In general complex colour schemes make for confusing images, but for some images they can be appropriate, and help to illustrate the different features at different heights.
Some examples of these schemes are shown below.
Good luck with your AFM articles! If you have more questions, contact me here.
NB. All the images in these two articles were produced with SPIP 6.7.7 or Gwyddion 2.40
This article and all content is copyright Peter Eaton and AFMHelp.com 2019.
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