How the atomic force microscope works?

Bruno Torre, Davide Ricci, Pier Carlo Braga

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This chapter aims at giving a quick but precise introduction of the atomic force microscope from the working principle point of view. It is intended to provide a useful starting point to those who first approach the instrument giving a general sketch of the working principles and technical implementations as well as last improvements. Subheading 1 is introductory: it gives an overview of what the instrument does and why it has been developed. Subheading 2 is focused on measurement ranges and on the comparison with scanning electron microscope (SEM) and transmission electron microscope (TEM) which have similar ranges and resolutions but different sample interactions and applications. Subheading 3 gives an overview of the working principles and the most diffused technical implementations on which most of the commercial microscopes rely, as we think it gives the useful base knowledge to understand possible applications, instrument capabilities, and results. In particular, technical improvements taking place over the past few years are highlighted. Despite of the simple and not very technical approach, it has a key importance in understanding concepts at the base of Chapter 3, which is, on the other side, useful for beginners and experienced users as well. Subheading 4 compares different instrument architectures and can, therefore, be useful for those who are going to choose an instrument having clear final applications. Latest solutions are once more highlighted. Subheading 5 gives an overview and some suggestions to start working, both in air and in liquid. Following the general philosophy of the book, it follows more an “how to do” concept than a general theoretical approach. Subheading 6 contains the future developments of the techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMethods in Molecular Biology
PublisherHumana Press Inc.
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameMethods in Molecular Biology
ISSN (Print)1064-3745

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011.


  • AFM basics
  • AFM working principles
  • Introduction to AFM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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