AFM Artifacts


1.1 Tip-sample convolution


This is an inherent feature of AFM and can never be fully removed. Any AFM image is a convolution of the shape of the probe, and the shape of the sample. This has the effect of making protruding features appear wide, and holes appear smaller (both narrower and often less deep, too). Broader (less sharp) probes will enhance the effect, as shown below.



 Illustration of convolution of AFM probe and sample giving rise to the image (red).


Probe-sample convolution tends to have the greatest effect on features of similar or smaller radii than the probe. it can be reduced by deconvolution techniques, discussed further in "Atomic Force Microscopy".



 The book, "Atomic Force Microscopy" by Peter Eaton and Paulbook cover  West was published in March 2010 by OUP.

There is some information about it at this site, but it's somewhat out of date. In particular the contents listing is not quite correct.

 Here is the correct contents of "Atomic Force Microscopy": 


Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1 Background to AFM
1.2 AFM today

Chapter 2: Instrumental Aspects of AFM
2.1 Basic concepts in AFM instrumentation
2.2 The AFM stage
2.3 AFM electronics
2.4 Acquisition software
2.5 AFM cantilevers and probes
2.6 AFM instrument environment
2.7 Scanning environment

Chapter 3: AFM Modes
3.1 Topographic modes
3.2 Nontopographic modes
3.3 Surface modification

Chapter 4: Measuring AFM Images
4.1 Sample preparation
4.2 Measuring contact mode images
4.3 Measuring intermittent contact mode images
4.4 High-resolution imaging
4.5 Force curves

Chapter 5: Image Processing in AFM
5.1 Processing AFM images
5.2 Displaying AFM images
5.3 Analysing AFM Images

Chapter 6: Image Artifacts in AFM
6.1 Probe artefacts
6.2 Scanner artefacts
6.3 Image processing artefacts
6.4 Vibration noise
6.5 Noise from other sources
6.6 Other artefacts

Chapter 7: Applications of AFM
7.1 AFM applications in materials science
7.2 AFM applications in nanotechnology
7.3 AFM applications in the life sciences
7.4 Industrial AFM applications

Appendix A: AFM Standards

Appendix B: Scanner Calibration and Certification Procedures

Appendix C: Third Party AFM Software





To buy the book, visit

 At the Atomic Force Blog, I publish occasional opinion articles about new things in AFM that catch my eye. Click below to be redirected to the blog.

I've recently updated the SPM software list, with a couple of new (to me) programs, Mountains and TrueMap. Both are based on profilometer software, but also offer to open AFM files. Since profilometry and AFM produce very similar data, this makes sense, and both are capable programs, though I found mountains more flexible in opening AFM file formats. However, since AFM and profilometry tend to be used for different samples, the requirements can be somewhat different, and most AFM-specific packages are more flexible in for example levelling procedures, which are very important. The links to the programs can be found on the software page.

Book QuizTest for Chapter 1 - Introduction

Chapter 1 is the introduction chapter. Firstly the background to AFM is explained, which techniques preceded it, and how it came to be invented. Then some important characteristics of AFM are discussed, with reference to other microscopy techniques. This is a short chapter, covering briefly some material that occurs in greater details through the rest of the book; for this reason there are only 5 questions here.

Q1. What two major instruments preceded AFM?

Q2. Who invented the AFM and built the first ever instrument?

Q3. Which SPM technique is most commonly used, STM or AFM?

Q4. Which prize was given to the inventors of AFM and why?

Q5. Limitation in imaging what kind of sample limitation lead to the development of the AFM?

Long answer question.

Compare SEM, TEM with AFM. Under what circumstance would AFM be better than SEM, TEM and optical microscopy? Under what circumstance would AFM be worse than SEM, TEM and optical microscopy?


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