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Park AFM Modes and Techniques

Park AFM Electrical Modes

PinPoint™ AFM Nanoelectrical Modes


PinPointTM nanoelectrical modes eliminate lateral shear forces between the cantilever tip and the surface, thus minimizing damage while ensuring high imaging quality and reproducibility for a wide range of samples over many consecutive measurements. PinPoint can be combined with other AFM modes to obtain information about electrical properties such as:

• PinPoint Conductive AFM (C-AFM)
• PinPoint Piezoresponse Force Microscopy (PFM)
• PinPoint Scanning Spreading Resistance Microscopy (SSRM)

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1. The XY scanner stops during acquisition
2. Approach and retract at each pixel point.
3. Record the approach height and maintain the Z distance.


PinPoint™ Conductive AFM obtains the best of resolution and sensitivity during current measurements

PinPoint™ Conductive AFM was developed for well defined electric contact between the tip and the sample. They XY scanner stops while measuring the electric current with contact time controlled by a user. PinPoint™ Conductive AFM allows higher spatial resolution, without lateral force, with optimized current measurement over different sample surface.

Learn more about how PinPoint mode enhances investigation of electrical and electromechanical properties here


The conventional contact and tapping conductive AFM have cons and pros.
PinPoint iAFM has the best of both spatial resolution and current sensitivity.


ZnO nano-rods
Scan size:  4 µm
Using Probe: Solid Pt
Imaged on a Park NX20 using PinPoint Scan Mode.

Conductive AFM (C-AFM)


Probing the Local Electronic Structure of a Sample’s Surface

With the continuous decrease in device sizes and critical dimensions in the semiconductor industry, the ability to measure electrical properties locally with a high spatial resolution is vital for accurate device characterization and failure analysis. Here, Atomic force microscopy (AFM) offers real space imaging of local surface properties on the nanoscale. Conductive AFM (C-AFM) in particular, simultaneously measures the topography and conductivity of a sample by scanning the surface with a conductive material coated tip as a nanoscale electrical probe at an applied DC bias.

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The contrast on the Conductive AFM image indicates differences in the electrical property of the raised dots.
The topography of a DRAM surface and Conductive AFM image with various sample bias.

Scan size: 1µm
Using Probe: CDT-ContR
Imaged on a Park XE-Series using Conductive Mode.

I-V Spectroscopy


Park AFMs feature the ability to conduct current voltage spectroscopy on specified point of the sample surface. The low noise of Park Systems’ conductive AFM options allows for the detection of extremely small changes in a sample’s electronic characteristics.

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Scan size:2 µm 
Using Probe: CDT-ContR
Imaged on a Park NX10 using I-V Spectroscopy Mode.

Electrostatic Force Microscopy (EFM)


High Resolution and High Sensitivity Imaging of Electrostatic Force

Almost every surface property measured by AFM is acquired by the process depicted. EFM measurements follow the same procedure. For EFM, the sample surface properties would be electrical properties and the interaction force will be the electrostatic force between the biased tip and sample. However, in addition to the electrostatic force, the van der Waals forces between the tip and the sample surface are always present. The magnitude of these van der Waals forces change according to the tip-sample distance, and are therefore used to measure the surface topography.

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(a) Topography (b) EFM Amplitude at -1V sample bias

Fuel Cell
Scan size:20 µm 
Using Probe: NSC14 Cr-Au
Imaged on a Park XE-Series using EFM Mode.

Kelvin Probe Force Microscopy (KPFM)


High Resolution and High Sensitivity Imaging of Surface Potential

Principle of KPFM is similar to Enhanced EFM with DC bias feedback. DC bias is controlled by feedback loop to zero the ω term. The DC bias that zeros the force is a measure of the surface potential. The difference is in the way the signal obtained from the Lock-in Amplifier is processed. As presented in previous section, the ω signal from Lock-in Amplifier can be expressed as following equation. scanning-kelvin-probe-microscopy-KPFM-f3 The ω signal can be used on its own to measure the surface potential. The amplitude of the ω signal is zero when VDC = Vs, or when the DC offset bias matches the surface potential of the sample. A feedback loop can be added to the system and vary the DC offset bias such that the output of the Lock-in Amplifier that measures the ω signal is zero. This value of the DC offset bias that zeroes the ω signal is then a measure of the surface potential. An image created from this variation in the DC offset bias is given as an image representing the absolute value of the surface potential.

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Surface Potential distribution on graphene

Scan size: 15 µm
Using Probe: Contsc Pt
Imaged on a Park XE-Series using KPFM Mode.

Dynamic Contact EFM (DC-EFM)


High Resolution and High Sensitivity Imaging of Electrostatic Force

DC-EFM is capable of extremely high definition EFM results. Patented by Park Systems, DC-EFM actively applies an AC voltage bias to the cantilever and detects the amplitude and the phase change of the cantilever modulation with respect to the applied bias. DC-EFM provides the ability to monitor the second harmonic of the modulation which can be compared to the capacitance of a sample and enhances the electric force signal from the background intermolecular force.

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[Topography] / [EFM Amplitude] / [EFM Phase]

Pzt film
Scan size: 2 µm
Using Probe: PPP-EFM
Imaged on a Park XE-Series using DC-EFM Mode.

Piezoresponse Force Microscopy (PFM)


Piezoresponse force microscopy (PFM) is a functional Atomic force microscopy (AFM) mode, which probes electromechanical material properties on the nanometer scale in addition to the sample topography. As a conductive tip scans the surface in contact, an AC voltage introduces an electromechanical response in piezoelectric compounds and thereby resolves local variations of piezoelectric and ferroelectric properties. PFM has gained increasing recognition for the unique information it can offer on the electromechanical coupling characteristics of various materials including actuators, sensors, and capacitors for modern communication technology.

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[Topography] / [EFM amplitude] / [EFM phase]
Domain switching , appllied +20V to outer square and -20V to inner square.

Ferroelectric Polymer on ITO
Scan size: 10 µm
Using Probe: Contsc Pt
Imaged on a Park XE-Series using DC-EFM Mode.

Piezoresponse Force Spectroscopy

Our Piezoresponse Force Spectroscopy mode measures the local amplitude/phase response to a DC bias between tip and sample surface. The polarity of local piezoelectric domain switches depend on the sign and amount of applied voltage.

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Pzt film
Scan size: 2 µm
Using Probe: PPP-EFM
Imaged on a Park XE-Series using EFM Mode.

QuickStep™ SCM

quickstep-scm-modeIn QuickStep scan, the XY scanner stops at each pixel point to record the data. It makes a fast jump between the pixel points.

QuickStep™ to make faster SCM data acquisition

In order to improve the signal-to-noise ratio, conventional SCM adopts very slow scan speeds as a means of giving the detector enough time to collect the data. QuickStep™ SCM differs from the conventional methodology of slow continuous movement. Here, XY scanner stops at each pixel point to record the data and then makes a fast and rapid hop to the next measurement points. This effectively speeds up the scan rate while maintaining the same signal sensitivity of the measurements by conventional SCM at slow scan speeds.

Application note: Accurate dopant profiles of semiconductor device structures with QuickStep Scanning Capacitance Microscopy


quickstep-scan-rateQuickStep Scan (Scan rate 1.5Hz)
conventianal-scan-rateConventional Scan (Scan rate 1Hz)


Scan size: 10µm x 3µm
Using Probe: PPP-EFM
Imaged on a Park NX20 using QuickStep Scan Mode.

Scanning Capacitance Microscopy (SCM)


High Resolution and High Sensitivity Imaging of Charge Distribution

Our SCM mode provides doping concentration information over the sample surface by measuring the capacitance change between tip and sample. the module enables a variable resonator frequency, which allows a wide RF bandwidth capable of monitoring a large range of doping concentrations by selecting the most sensitive frequency of the resonator for a specific doping range.

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The n-doped silicon sample has areas of varying dopant concentration, imaged by Park SCM.
The doping concentration of less than an order of magnitude is clearly distinguishable.

N-doped silicon
Scan size: 20 µm
Using Probe: PPP-EFM
Imaged on a Park NX20 using SCM Mode.

Scanning Spreading Resistance Microscopy (SSRM)


Probing the Local Electronic Structure of a Sample’s Surface

Our SSRM mode precisely measures the local resistance over a sample surface by using a conductive AFM tip to scan a small region while applying DC bias.

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Scanning Tunneling Microscopy (STM)


Probing the Local Electronic Structure of a Sample’s Surface

STM measures the tunneling current between tip and sample, giving highly accurate sub-nanometer scale images you can use to gain insights into sample properties.

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STM image of YBCO super conductor

YBCO super conductor 
Scan size: 2 µm
Using Probe: STM Pt/Ir wire
Imaged on a Park NX10 using STM Mode.

Photo Current Mapping (PCM)


Enabling Innovation in Photosensitive Materials Research

Our PCM mode measures photoelectric response to a illumination without interference from unwanted light sources, including the feedback laser. This mode features a laser illumination module and acquisition and analysis software.

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A typical photocurrent response to a time-resolved illumination.
The current between the sample and a voltage-biased cantilever is measured before, during, and after the illumination.



Point-by-point mapping of photocurrent spectroscopy.
Photocurrent response in time domain is acquired in each grid point defined on a sample.