NaniteAFM — AFM for Large Samples

Surface morphology is a significant feature for several high-tech surfaces with features that can go down a few nanometers and surface roughness as small as a nanometer.

Under environmental conditions, such components can be easily examined using AFM. The types and sizes of samples that most AFMs can manage are constrained. The NaniteAFM by Nanosurf is the industry-leading solution for AFM implementation with the fewest sample-dimension constraints.

In a quite compact design, the NaniteAFM has a tip-scanner, an on-board approach motor and two inspection video cameras. It includes everything necessary to function autonomously, thereby setting the stage for simple integration. To install the AFM, users just need 300 cm3 of space and a stable docking site.

  • Perfect choice for custom incorporation
  • Serial dimensions can be automated
  • Works with heavy, large or curved samples 

Save Time Thanks to Optimized Ease of Use

To allow faster and repeatable installation, the NaniteAFM has a dovetail mounting plate on the back. The need for cantilevers with alignment grooves eliminates the need for laser configuration.

For integration, this ensures good adjustment between the cantilever tip and other components of a setup, such as an indenter. Due to this new outstanding accuracy, swapping between components is possible without needing to seek the correct location, lowering off-time and handling during experimentations.

The Nanite AFM’s easy mounting system.

Image Credit: Nanosurf AG

NaniteAFM integrated in the Accurion nanofilm_ep4 imaging ellipsometer.

Image Credit: Nanosurf AG 

The incorporated top view camera with 2 µm lateral resolution offers an excellent outline of the surface for localizing and positioning points of interest on the sample under the cantilever. The handy side view camera gives a visual representation at a 45° angle under the cantilever. It helps the user during the initial rapid technique to within a few tens of micrometers of the sample before handing over to the AFM for the final automated technique.

Top view/side view camera images (1 and 2), optical and AFM image of indent (3 and 4).

Image Credit: Nanosurf AG 

Automation of Measurements and Analysis

NaniteAFM can be done automatically. This enables the operator time to be reduced further. It is indeed appropriate to address and measure samples instantly using a scripting interface and batch assessment methods.

Furthermore, evaluation and report production can be done automatically using predefined pass-fail criteria. This is especially effective when combined with a motorized stage, allowing different areas of a sample or multiple samples to be assessed independently without operator intervention.

NaniteAFM’s integration capability enables it to manage virtually any sample. Heavy or large samples are not an issue since the NaniteAFM moves while the sample remains in place. Motorization is implemented to either the tip or the sample, or both, depending on the type of sample.

If a solution is not accessible for the sample, a highly skilled team of engineers and scientists is readily accessible to create a custom solution that will meet the user’s exact specifications. With the appropriate stage, dimensions at various angles can be accomplished.

NaniteAFM Large Custom Automated Translation Stage

With automated measurements on large sample in mind, this high-load, high-precision, and low-noise translation stage pushes the boundaries of sample stage performance. A pneumatic lift/lock mechanism ensures easy travel when lifted and stable measurements when locked. Large travel ranges and heavy-duty integrated active vibration isolation complement the setup. Video Credit: Nanosurf AG

This custom-built translation stage was constructed to allow roughness measurements on large concave and convex samples. It features full 360° manual rotation of the sample platform and automated rotation of the scan head to accommodate the curved form of the various samples.

Image Credit: Nanosurf AG

Quantitative Surface Analysis at the Nanoscale

NaniteAFM is considered to be the ideal tool for improving the imaging and analysis capabilities for quality control, as it provides nanoscale spectral data. It has the benefit of being able to work with both opaque and transparent samples. As a result of these, AFM has turned out to be a well-established method for glass surface analysis.

Several applications necessitate glass surfaces with roughness far below the nanometer, and nanometer-sized imperfections may have an impact on the object’s behavior. Despite their smooth surface, glass objects can be large and heavy, and cutting samples from a work piece for investigation is not recommended.

Moreover, unlike lenses, glass surfaces are not generally plane-parallel. The NaniteAFM is a versatile tool that has the ability to manage all of the demands for providing quantitative surface information from a glass work piece.

Image (A) and statistical analysis (B) of a glass surface with sub-nanometer roughness (00584).

Image Credit: Nanosurf AG

Image (A) and height profile (B) of nanoscale ripples in glass. The ripples are produced by physically removal of atoms from the surface using defocused ion beam sputtering with inert Ar ions. Sample courtesy: Maria Caterina Giordano and Francesco Buatier de Mongeot, Dipartimento di Fisica, Università di Genova (Italy) (00787) (00584)

Image Credit: Nanosurf AG

In addition to topography, NaniteAFM can be used to visualize the following mechanical properties: If samples have differences in elastic, adhesive or magnetic properties at the nanoscale, phase information could be used to observe heterogeneity of tip-sample engagement. In static spectroscopy mode, the local elasticity and adhesion properties of polymeric samples can also be quantitatively mapped.

Overlay of phase on topography, uncovering variation in mechanical properties of rubber, with a higher phase in green-red on particles compared to the surrounding matrix in blue.

Image Credit: Nanosurf AG

Overlay of phase on topography, displaying the magnetization of a Permalloy thin film (sample courtesy: Prof. Dr-Ing. Jeffrey McCord, Nanoscale Magnetic Materials–Magnetic Domains, Institute for Materials Science, University of Kiel).

Image Credit: Nanosurf AG

NaniteAFM Imaging Modes

The following are the modes suitable for the instrument. Certain modes may require added components or software options.

Standard Imaging Modes

  • Static Force Mode
  • Dynamic Force Mode (Tapping Mode)
  • Phase Imaging Mode

Electrical Properties

  • Conductive AFM (C-AFM)
  • Electrostatic Force Microscopy (EFM)
  • Scanning Spreading Resistance Microscopy (SSRM) 

Mechanical Properties

  • Force Modulation
  • Force Spectroscopy
  • Force Mapping

Magnetic Properties

  • Magnetic Force Microscopy 

Other Measurement Modes

  • Lithography and Nanomanipulation 

System Specifications

Table 1. NaniteAFM scan head specifications. Source: Nanosurf AG

NaniteAFM scan head specifications 110 µm 70 µm 25 µm
Maximum scan range (XY)(1) 110 µm 70 µm 25 µm
Maximum Z-range(1) 22 µm 14 µm 5 µm
XY-linearity mean error <0.6% <1.2% <0.7%
Z-measurement noise level (RMS, static mode) typ. 350 pm
(max. 500 pm)
typ. 350 pm
(max. 500 pm)
typ. 80 pm
(max. 150 pm)
Z-measurement noise level (RMS, dynamic mode) typ. 90 pm
(max. 150 pm)
typ.90 pm
(max. 150 pm)
typ. 30 pm
(max. 50 pm)
Mounting Removable scan head (86 × 45 × 61 mm) with 3-point quick-lock mounting plate, mountable to Nanosurf or custom stages
Alignment of cantilever Automatic self-alignment for cantilevers with alignment grooves
Automatic approach range 4.5 mm (1.5 mm below focal plane of internal optics)
Sample observation Dual USB video camera system (simultaneous top and side view):
5 MP, 1.4 mm x 1 mm, color top view and
5 MP, 3.1 mm x 3.5 mm, color side view of sample and cantilever
Sample illumination White LEDs (brightness 0–100%); Axial illumination for top view

(1) Manufacturing tolerances are ±10% for the 110-μm scan head and ±15% for the 70- and 25-μm scan heads
(2) Maximum scan range at 45° scan rotation

Table 2. C3000i controller — Core hardware specifications. Source: Nanosurf AG

. .
X/Y/Z-axis scan and position controller 3× 24-bit DAC (200 kHz)
X/Y/Z-axis position measurement 1× 24-bit ADC (200 kHz)
Excitation & modulation outputs 2× 16-bit DAC (20 MHz)
Analog signal input bandwidth 0–5 MHz
Main input signal capturing 2× 16-bit ADC (20 MHz)
2× 24-bit ADC (200 kHz)
Additional user signal outputs 1× 24-bit DAC (200 kHz)
Digital synchronization 2× digital out, 2× digital in, 2× I2C Bus
FPGA module and embedded processor ALTERA FPGA,
32-bit NIOS-CPU,
80 MHz, 256 MB RAM,
multitasking OS
Communication USB 2.0 Hi-Speed to PC and scan head interface
System clock Internal quarts (10 MHz) or external clock
Power 90–240 V AC, 70 W, 50/60 Hz


Table 3. Cantilever. Source: Nanosurf AG

. .
Width min. 28 μm
Length min. 225 μm or XY corrected
Reflective coating Required on complete cantilever
Liquid measurements Not possible
Alignment grooves Required
Resonance frequency dynamic mode 15 kHz to 350 kHz
Cantilever shape Single rectangular cantilevers only
Chip thickness 300 μm


Scan Head Dimensions

Image Credit: Nanosurf AG

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