Atomic Force Microscopy

Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) is a high-resolution analysis technique where an oscillating cantilever causes a very sharp tip (R ≈ 2-100nm) to interact with a sample surface and acquire mechanical property data. We apply established AFM techniques (e.g. Fast Force Volume, Tapping Mode, Force Modulation, etc), techniques developed within our research group and finite element analysis to measure and deconvolute the gradient of elastic and viscoelastic mechanical properties (known as the ‘interphase’) near the interfaces in polymer nanocomposites.


Technique Development

In recent years, atomic force microscopy has expanded the toolkit for characterizing polymers and other soft, heterogeneous materials through a variety of evolving and emerging modes and improved instrumentation.  Our group has leveraged some of these new capabilities and pioneered new techniques for probing local elastic and viscoelastic properties in these materials, often incorporating modeling approaches to aid in interpretation of experimental results. Click on the links below to learn more.

Optimal Experimentation and Atomic Force Microscopy for Nanocomposite Materials Design

Stress Deconvolution from Atomic Force Spectroscopy Data across Polymer-Particle Interfaces

Dynamic Scanning Indentation (DSI)


Property Characterization

The AFM is a key tool for microstructure characterization as it can produce mechanical property contrast for samples, whereas other analysis techniques (e.g. scanning electron microscopy) are not able to differentiate between constituent components. To make AFM analysis suitable to inform material property predictions within the umbrella of the Material Genome Initiative, there is a continued focus on the development of ‘model samples’ which allows for a combinatorial approach to the collection of interphase data and produce statistically meaningful results for many different polymer-substrate configurations. Click on the links below to learn more.

AFM Characterization of 3D Printed Materials

Developing a Framework for the Forward Prediction of the Mechanical Properties of Polymer Nanocomposites