AFM Characterization of Thin Films
High-Resolution Topography and Functional Properties
- Current map of a BFMO film. The current is overlaid on the AFM topography. The image reveals that the boundaries between crystalline grains (yellow-white) generally have much higher conductivity than the crystallite interiors (purple). The multiferroic and spin glass properties of BFMO films make them attractive for novel electronic devices. Scan size 1 μm, imaged with the Asylum Research MFP-3D AFM; sample courtesy Thin Film Spintronic Structures Group, Dept. of Applied Physics and Optics, University of Barcelona.
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Thin films and coatings play a critical role in everything from food containers to photovoltaics. The intrinsic geometric and microstructural dimensions of advanced films (thickness, grain and domain sizes, etc.) make characterization on sub-nanometer to micrometer length scales increasingly important in successful development of new materials.
The atomic force microscope (AFM) is a powerful and versatile tool for this purpose. AFMs can not only quantify 3D roughness and texture with unmatched spatial resolution but also measure nanoscale functionality including electrical, magnetic, and mechanical behavior.