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Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM)

Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) analysis provides images with near-atomic resolution for measuring surface topography.  It is capable of quantifying surface roughness of samples down to the angstrom-scale. In addition to presenting a surface image, AFM can also provide quantitative measurements of feature sizes, such as step heights and other dimensions. Additionally, advanced modes of AFM allow for the qualitative mapping of various other physical properties, such as adhesion, modulus, dopant distribution, conductivity, surface potential, electric field, and magnetic domains.

Examples of Atomic Force Microscopy applications include:

  • Assessing wafers or thin films on wafers (e.g. SiO2, GaAs, SiGe, etc.) before and after processing
  • Investigating processing effects (e.g. plasma treatment) on biomedical devices such as contact lenses, catheters and coated stents
  • Examining the impact of surface roughness on adhesion
  • Assessing trench shape/cleanliness on processed/patterned wafers
  • Determining whether morphology is the source of surface hazes
  • Mapping the distribution of activated carriers
  • Characterizing the uniformity of thin conductive films
  • Measuring step heights between domains on patterned wafers
Ideal Uses
  • Three-dimensional surface topographic imaging, including surface roughness, grain size, step height, and pitch
  • Imaging of other sample characteristics, including magnetic field, capacitance, and friction. Phase imaging allows the investigation of physical characteristics of surfaces, such as modulus and adhesion.
Technical Specifications

Signal Detected: Topography
Vertical Resolution: 0.1Å
Imaging/Mapping: Yes
Lateral Resolution/Probe Size:  2-150nm
Advanced Analysis Modes:
Scanning Capacitance Microscopy
C-AFM: Conductive AFM
TUNA: Tunneling AFM
KPFM: Kelvin Probe Force Microscopy
SSRM: Scanning Spreading Resistance Microscopy
EFM: Electrostatic Force Microscopy
MFM: Magnetic Force Microscopy
PFQNM: Peak Force Quantitative Nanomechanical Microscopy

  • Quantifying surface roughness
  • Wafers up to 300mm can be analyzed intact
  • High spatial resolution
  • Imaging of conducting and insulating samples
  • Scan range limits: 90µm laterally (xy) and 5µm vertically in z-direction
  • Potential problems with extremely rough or oddly shaped samples
  • Tip-induced errors are possible
  • Many electrical and magnetic modes are limited to qualitative or semi-quantitative measurements