High viscosity environments: an unexpected route to obtain true atomic resolution with atomic force microscopy

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Title: High viscosity environments: an unexpected route to obtain true atomic resolution with atomic force microscopy
Authors: Weber, Stefan A. L.
Kilpatrick, J. I.
Brosnan, Timothy M.
Jarvis, Suzi
Rodriguez, Brian J.
Permanent link: http://hdl.handle.net/10197/6122
Date: 9-Apr-2014
Abstract: Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is widely used in liquid environments, where true atomic resolution at the solid–liquid interface can now be routinely achieved. It is generally expected that AFM operation in more viscous environments results in an increased noise contribution from the thermal motion of the cantilever, thereby reducing the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). Thus, viscous fluids such as ionic and organic liquids have been generally avoided for high-resolution AFM studies despite their relevance to, e.g. energy applications. Here, we investigate the thermal noise limitations of dynamic AFM operation in both low and high viscosity environments theoretically, deriving expressions for the amplitude, phase and frequency noise resulting from the thermal motion of the cantilever, thereby defining the performance limits of amplitude modulation, phase modulation and frequency modulation AFM. We show that the assumption of a reduced SNR in viscous environments is not inherent to the technique and demonstrate that SNR values comparable to ultra-high vacuum systems can be obtained in high viscosity environments under certain conditions. Finally, we have obtained true atomic resolution images of highly ordered pyrolytic graphite and mica surfaces, thus revealing the potential of high-resolution imaging in high viscosity environments.
Funding Details: Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology
Science Foundation Ireland
Type of material: Journal Article
Publisher: IOP Publishing
Copyright (published version): 2014 IOP Publishing
Keywords: Interfaces;Liquid–solid interfaces;Atomic force microscopy;Surface structure determination;Image quality;Noise;Spatial resolution;Graphite
DOI: 10.1088/0957-4484/25/17/175701
Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
Appears in Collections:Physics Research Collection

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