Dimensional measurements of nanoparticles are extremely important for their applications in a diverse range of fields. The unique properties of nanoparticles depend strongly on their size, so it’s extremely important to be able to characterize, and control nanoparticle sizes. For example, an extremely small change in the dimension of a quantum dot nanoparticle will give rise to dramatically different photoluminescence characteristics. in the case of metallic nanoparticles, the size of the particle will alter light absorption and scattering properties, which are highly important for many applications, including in disease diagnosis and therapy (1). Many other properties depend on nanoparticle size, including magnetic and mechanical properties, interactions with cells and tissues, etc. The shape of nanoparticles also has a strong effect on these properties.


Thus, in nanoscience, it is crucial to have a tool that can simply characterise particles size and shape of nanoparticles, irrespective of the material of which they are composed, with sub-nanometer resolution. The figure below shows AFM imaging of a variety of nanoparticle types.

images of three nanoparticle types

Figure above shows (L-R) silica nanospheres, organometallic nanorods, and gold nanotriangles all imaged by AFM. Adapted from figure 7.11 of Eaton and West, Atomic Force Microscopy(2)


AFM fulfils these requirements, z-axis (height) measurements in AFM can be accurate to within 0.1 nm. AFM also has several other advantages for characterisation of nanoparticles:


Our course registration deadline passed in February, and the course for 2016 is now full. Register an interest by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you would like to know when the next course is announced.

Click the image below to go to the course information page, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for enquiries about our course.


Between 18th and 21st April of this year, we ran our Fourth Porto AFM Training Workshop. Again, we sold out the course, and had more applicants than places. Unfortunately, we could only accept fourteen students this year.
afm image of DVD
We were very pleased again with the international response to the course, and this year, we had several students from Portugal, as well as three from the UK, and students from the Czech Republic, Germany the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium and Austria.
"I must thank you so so much since after the workshop I am much more confident. I am currently imaging 10 nm ZnO Nanoparticles..I would have never believed to be able to do this by myself and with my instrument!!"
As usual, we had a mixture of core topics, and invited lectures from external experts. We had an unusual structure this year, since Dr. Simon Connell from Molecular and Nanoscale Physics group in Leeds, and had to catch a plane back to the UK shortly after the start of the course! However, he had time to give us an excellent, and really amazing talk about how to study dynamic processes with the AFM. As usual, the first night we accompanied a group of the students to a local restaurant where lots of experiments with Portuguese food and drink were carried out!
On the second day we continued the lectures and also had a guest talk from Dr. Rogério Colaço from the IST in Lisbon, talking about how to use the AFM to measure all sorts of properties of Materials samples. The students also learned about sample preparation and prepared some samples to image the next day. After classes that day Jorge and I were able to repair one of the microscopes which had become damaged in transit, just in time for the practical classes the next day!

Wednesday was a beautiful sunny day so fortunately all the students had either the morning or afternoon off to make the most of the trip to the beautiful city of Porto. The practical classes went really well, and some of the images obtained by the students can be observed on this page. We always run a “best image” competition, so the students are extra-motivated to collect great AFM data. The results of this competition will be run very shortly. I was particularly impressed that within a classroom environment, with four people around, the students were able to image DNA; getting decent images of structure that are less than one nanometre in height!
students learning atomic force microscopy
" I really enjoyed both the sample preparation part, during which I learned useful tips for improving my images, and the practical class"
The end of this day was taken up with the traditional visit to a Port wine lodge where we all learned about Porto’s most famous export, we enjoyed the beautiful views over the river, and had a lovely meal (and plenty of Wine) at Taylor’s restaurant.
afm course meal at taylors
After all that wine, the last day started with some subdued students, but we had a more interactive day, with all the students learning about AFM data Processing , display and analysis. The students used test data, and their own images and definitely seemed to be learning a lot.  During this time, several student had one-to-one coaching session on force spectroscopy, with our invited expert Dr. Filomena Carvalho of the institute of molecular medicine in Lisbon, who then gave another excellent talk highlighting her work on the uses of AFM force curves in biomedical applications.
"The workshop was very useful, since I never worked with AFM. I think the course is a useful and important way to start with AFM."

Overall, this was a very interactive group of students, and it was a pleasure to teach them all, thanks for coming! We got some nice feed-back from the students, some of which you can see on this page. For those that missed out, hope to see you next year!
"I particularly appreciate the organization of each presentation and the attention given to each student’s objectives. During the entire workshop practical examples were given according the class aims."
If you are interested in being informed about the next AFM training workshop, email me here: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

This website was taken offline on Wednesday 27th April. The reason was that the site had been hacked, was occasionally redirecting users to other websites. I have removed the vulnerabilities, have the site fully functional. The site was down for a total of 5 days.

If you ever are redirected to another site from this one (without clicking on an appropriate link), or see anything wrong with the site, please let me know by filling the contact form.


Thank you for your patience, and apologies if you found something here you should not have! 

As usual, during our AFM training course , we ran an image competition, challenging the students to submit images they had acquired or processed during the course.

This year, the standard was very high, and we could not decide between two of the entries, so two prizes have been awarded.

The overall prize goes to the image below of E. coli bacteria which was produced by Dr. Cassandra Terry of UCL, London. The processing on this makes was excellent!

E. coli by C. Terry


We could not go without giving a prize to this image of double-stranded  DNA molecules obtained by Dr. Elin Moe of ITQB, Lisbon. This image, below, won our technical merit prize. Acquiring such an image in your first session with an AFM is impressive!



Congratulations to both, your prizes will be with you soon!