Factors to Consider when Selecting an AFM

The answer to the question of how much an atomic force microscope (AFM) costs is dependent on several factors. These include the performance, capabilities and modes you expect from your instrument, which, in turn, establishes the components and complexity of the technology employed.

The following aspects have the largest impact on the AFM’s price:

  • Type of scanner: tip scanner or sample scanner
  • Elaborate accessories, e.g. temperature or environmental control, combined with optical microscopy, FluidFM, or variable magnetic field
  • Low noise levels of the deflection signal, e.g. for sensitive force spectroscopy
  • Automation of measurements and sample handling
  • Special measurement modes
  • Controller performance
  • Sample size and weight
  • Scan range: are large scan ranges required?
  • Lateral resolution: is, for example, the atomic resolution needed?
  • Vertical resolution and noise level: are measurements of surfaces with sub-Angstrom roughness planned?

Although it is possible to purchase a simple AFM for as little as a few thousand US dollars, top-of-the-range high-end models can cost half a million dollars or more. Determining your requirements is the most crucial thing when considering which AFM to purchase.

Which questions does your research set out to answer and what is required to perform this? This is a difficult question, and assistance from experts in the field, e.g., technical sales staff, colleagues, or application specialists, can be extremely helpful.

Your AFM provider should be able to assist their application scientists or technical sales reps. Once these initial questions have been answered, the instruments and choices to match your research requirements must be inventoried.

When applying for funding such an overview of possible buying choices is extremely useful, or may even be required. If your funding possibilities are unable to meet the research requirements, a second-hand instrument should be considered.

Offers by different AFM providers should be compared, and the Nanosurf sales team will happily provide you with a budgetary quotation after initial discussions about your requirements. This will give you all the information needed to apply for a grant or funding when submitting your project proposal.

When assessing your options, it is also vital to consider additional aspects, for instance conditions of warranty, after-sales support, user training, and the AFM’s flexibility regarding later upgrades and adapting to new research requirements.

Nanosurf's Wide Range of Atomic Force Microscopes

Nanosurf offers a wide range of instruments, from entry-level affordable compact AFMs to advanced research instruments for materials science and AFMs for life science or biological applications.

Often, industrial facilities have very specific requirements – in these cases Nanosurf can develop systems that are fully customized, e.g. for extraordinarily heavy or very large samples.

While many AFM providers advertise part of their product portfolio as "low-cost" instruments, it is worth noting that these are often still priced far higher than Nanosurf's entry-level AFMs. The compact NaioAFM supplies solid performance and is suitable for basic research, even on a tight budget.

The NaioAFM is a great low-cost AFM for basic reasearch and educational settings.

The NaioAFM is a great low-cost AFM for basic reasearch and educational settings. Image Credit: Nanosurf AG


For basic research and educational settings, the NaioAFM is a great low-cost AFM. Sometimes funding will not be available for a brand new system that meets your research needs. In this case, you could be tempted to search for a second-hand instrument to find an affordable AFM.

Due to a lack of support and service, if you purchase from unofficial channels, Nanosurf does not broker used AFMs, and this path is not recommended.

Yet, sometimes, systems that have previously been utilized by application scientists and sales teams, distributors or subsidiaries as demonstration units or previously utilized systems, which have been refurbished after a customer has upgraded their system, can be offered.

These demo and refurbished systems must fulfill high maintenance standards and be in perfect functioning condition before they are offered by Nanosurf. They are tested meticulously before shipping.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Nanosurf AG.

For more information on this source, please visit Nanosurf AG.


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