AFM for Thin Film and Coatings

AFM is a powerful tool for the characterization of thin films and coatings. This category covers a wide range of materials, including ceramics, metals, oxides, and polymers. These thin films and coatings are used for many applications and formed by many different processes. The information that AFM can provide is widely useful for helping to develop, optimize, and monitor the deposition process and to understand the relationship between the desired functional properties of the film/coating and AFM observables.
 

Common thin film and coating properties measured using AFM: 

  • Surface roughness, uniformity, and morphology
  • Mechanical properties, hardness, and wear
  • Conductivity, permittivity, stored charge, and other electrical properties
  • Piezoelectric / electromechanical response
  • Magnetic properties
  • Thermal properties
 

Examples of thin film and coating applications:

  • Batteries and energy storage
  • Biocompatibility
  • Corrosion and antifouling
  • Data storage
  • Optics
  • Photovoltaics
  • Semiconductor and microelectronic industries
  • Sensors and actuators including MEMS (microelectromechanical systems)
  • Tribology (hardness, lubrication, and wear)
 

Typical thin film deposition processes:

  • ALD (atomic layer deposition)
  • CVD (chemical vapor deposition)
  • MBE (molecular beam epitaxy)
  • PLD (pulsed laser deposition)
  • PVD (physical vapor deposition)
  • Self assembly
  • Sputtering
  • Spin casting
  • Thermal evaporation

Application Note

Measuring Surface Roughness with AFM

The most commonly made AFM measurement on thin films and coatings is surface roughness. Often the roughness of the film or coating is important to its function. However, even where the roughness is not itself a critical parameter, the roughness is commonly used to monitor the quality and consistency of the deposition process. In this way, the roughness may be used as a leading indicator and predictor of possible functional issues that are less easily measured and monitored.

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Measuring Nanomechanical Properties


	AM-FM Viscoelastic Mapping Mode

AM-FM Viscoelastic Mapping Mode

Quantitatively maps storage modulus and loss tangent over a wide modulus range (~50 kPa - 300 GPa).


	Contact Resonance Viscoelastic Mapping Mode

Contact Resonance Viscoelastic Mapping Mode

Quantitatively maps storage modulus and loss tangent over a wide modulus range (1 GPa - 300 GPa).


	Nanoindentation Option for MFP-3D AFMs

Nanoindentation Option for MFP-3D AFMs

True ISO 14577 compliant vertical nanoindenter option for MFP-3D AFMs.


	NanomechPro Toolkit

NanomechPro Toolkit

Describes the complete set of complementary tools for investigating nanomechanical properties.

Probing Electrical and Functional Behavior


	Overview of Electrical Techniques

Overview of Electrical Techniques

Overview of conductive AFM (CAFM), Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM), electric force microscopy (EFM).


	Conductive AFM (CAFM)

Conductive AFM (CAFM)

Detailed discussion of conductive AFM (CAFM) using Asylum’s exclusive ORCA modules.


	Piezoresponse Force Microscopy (PFM)

Piezoresponse Force Microscopy (PFM)

Detailed discussion of piezoresponse force microscopy (PFM) techniques, many exclusive to Asylum AFMs.


	Scanning Microwave Impedance Microscopy (sMIM)

Scanning Microwave Impedance Microscopy (sMIM)

Scanning Microwave Impedance Microscopy (sMIM) measures conductivity and permittivity at high resolution.