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Functional Atomic Force Microscopy

Functional Atomic Force Microscopy

The Functional Atomic Force Microscopy group's mission is “To advance scanning probe microscopies and spectroscopies to capture the nanoscale origins of functional properties in materials for energy and information.

FAFM group

The Functional Atomic Force Microscopy (FAFM) group at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS) is dedicated to advancing the capabilities of scanning probe microscopies. Our team works on exploring new ways to use the sharp and mobile tip of the AFM to induce concentrated strain, electrical, thermal, electromagnetic and other fields at the surface of material. We use these tools and techniques to characterize their response through minute displacements of the surface, current flow from the tip to the surface, or through optical spectroscopy of light emitted from the tip-surface junction. This allows us to learn about the behavior of materials at fundamental length scales, from 10’s of nm’s to the atomic scale. We leverage and develop cutting-edge data acquisition and control systems to precisely deliver complex electrical, photonic, and thermal signals to the sample and to capture the response. 

By scanning the tip across the surface while performing measurements, we can create high resolution maps of the behavior of advanced materials from multiple stimuli at multiple scales, which can reveal the ways that material inhomogeneity (grain boundaries, defects, multiple phases, interfaces, etc.) can influence macroscale behavior. This gives us insight into the exact mechanisms by which the nano defines the macro, and reveals nuance and complexity that macroscale measurements alone cannot provide. Moreover, in collaboration with the Data NanoAnalytics (DNA) group at the CNMS, we develop and integrate novel artificial intelligence (AI)-based approaches with the microscope to improve the quality and efficiency of imaging and spectroscopy, and to improve analysis of the data we acquire.

Our ultimate goal is to better understand the intricate physics and chemistry that occur at the nanoscale, and to develop new techniques and technologies to help us do so. Furthermore, we aim to deliver these capabilities and offer our expertise to the user community of the CNMS. Through collaborations within and beyond the CNMS, we push the boundaries of what is possible with imaging and spectroscopy through scanning probe microscopy, and expand the scope of what is knowable about the complex workings of the nanoscale world.


Senior R&D Staff Scientist, Group Leader for the Functional Atomic Force Microscopy Group (F-AFM), CNMS
Neus Domingo Marimon