Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM)

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An atomic force microscope (AFM) or scanning force microscope (SFM) is a very-high-resolution type of scanning probe microscopy (SPM), on the order of fractions of a nanometre. An AFM has three major abilities: force measurement, imaging and manipulation.

AFMs can be used to perform force spectroscopy and measure the mechanical properties of a sample, such as the Young’s modulus.  Imaging is achieved by raster scanning the position of the sample with respect to the tip and recording the height of the probe that corresponds to a constant probe-sample interaction.  In manipulation, the forces between tip and sample can also be used to change the properties of the sample in a controlled way. Examples of this include atomic manipulation, scanning probe lithography and local stimulation of cells.

Atomic force microscope infrared-spectroscopy (AFM-IR) is one of a family of techniques derived from a combination of two parent instrumental techniques; infrared spectroscopy and scanning probe microscopy (SPM). AFM-IR is related to techniques such as tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS)scanning near-field optical microscopy (SNOM)nano-FTIR and other methods of vibrational analysis with scanning probe microscopy.

ICAM equipment includes:

  • Anasys nanoIR2 at The University of Manchester, featuring nanoscale infrared spectroscopy with contact-mode atomic force microscopy offering an unique opportunity to map chemical state information with the spatial precision provided by AFM.
  • Asylum Research MFP-3D AFM at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, scanning in air or liquid environments, with nanomanipulation and nanolithography capabilities.
  • NEASPEC NANOFTIR/NIM AFM, s-SNOM at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. FTIR spectroscopy, imaging and s-SNOM (scattering scanning near field optical microscopy).
  • NTMDT NTEGRA Spectra AFM/Raman system at Imperial College London gives an enhanced Raman signal from the tip, giving a spatial resolution well below the diffraction limit of the laser.
  • WiTec AFM-Raman at Imperial College London couples confocal Raman imaging with AFM and enables the chemical properties of the samples to be correlated with the surface structure.


Advanced materials research covers a spectrum of academic fields and disciplines. The scientific publications authored by our researchers showcase some of the ground-breaking work taking place across the ICAM partnership.

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