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Asylum Research and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have released a detailed 24-page monograph explaining the theory, functionality and applications of Piezoresponse Force Microscopy (PFM). Electromechanical coupling is one of the fundamental natural mechanisms underlying the function of many inorganic and macromolecular materials and is ubiquitous in biological systems. The emergence of ferroelectric and multiferroic non-volatile memories and data storage devices has stimulated studies of electromechanically-active materials at the nanoscale, and PFM has emerged as the pre-eminent tool for nanoscale imaging, spectroscopy, and manipulation of these materials. In collaboration with ORNL, Asylum Research has advanced the technology of PFM, enabling very high sensitivity, high bias, and crosstalk-free measurements of piezoelectrics, ferroelectrics, multiferroics, and biological systems. PFM is implemented on Asylum's family of AFMs, including the MFP-3D™ series and the new Cypher™ AFM. The system features unique spectroscopic imaging modes including switching spectroscopy PFM and band excitation PFM. The PFM monograph is available on request at www.asylumresearch.com/PFM.
"Electromechanics and PFM are growing areas of research with studies ranging from data storage devices to MEMS to electromotor proteins and electrophysiology. This new monograph explains the use of special high voltage accessories and advanced imaging modes to measure piezoresponse, even for the weakest piezoelectric materials," said Dr. Jason Cleveland, CEO and co-founder of Asylum Research. "We see great potential for advanced measurements in many different disciplines and it is our hope and expectation that this new monograph on the subject will stimulate interest in the use of PFM."
With PFM, a bias is applied to the AFM tip using proprietary electronics, a high voltage cantilever, and sample holder. The vertical and lateral response amplitude measures the local electromechanical activity of the surface, and the phase of the response yields information on the polarization direction. On Asylum AFMs, high probing voltages, up to +220 volts, can characterize even very weak piezo materials. Dual frequency resonance tracking and band excitation, effectively use resonance enhancement in PFM to provide new information on local response and energy dissipation which cannot be obtained by standard AFM scanning modes. These techniques allow independent measurement of amplitude, resonant frequency, and Q-factor of the cantilever and overcome limitations of traditional sinusoidal cantilever excitation. The use of a large frequency range (1kHz - 2MHz) allows imaging both at the static condition, and effective use of several cantilever resonances as well as use of the inertial stiffening of the cantilever.
Polarization dynamics can also be studied with spectroscopy modes that include single-point hysteresis loop measurements and switching spectroscopy mapping. These modes provide local measure of such parameters as coercive and nucleation biases, imprint, remanent response, and work of switching (area within the hysteresis loop), for correlation with local microstructure. Combined with high-voltage, these allow local polarization switching to be probed even in high-coercivity materials such as electro-optical single crystals.
Pioneering research on PFM is currently being conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratory at the Materials Science and Technology Division and Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, in collaboration with Asylum Research. "The recent work that we have done in collaboration with Asylum is already producing ground-breaking results," said Dr. Kalinin, Staff Scientist at ORNL. "The plethora of new and exciting electromechanical phenomena emerging on the nanoscale - from electric field induced phase transitions in ferroelectrics to electronic flexoelectricity and molecular electromotors - has been belied by the lack of capability to study them quantitatively and reproducibly. PFM is the technique that enables these studies. Eventually, the development of nanotechnology will require the capability not only to "think", but to "act" on the nanoscale. PFM will pave the way for the understanding of electromechanical coupling mechanisms on the nanometer scale and development of the molecular electromechanical systems. "
About Asylum Research
Asylum Research is the technology leader for atomic force and scanning probe microscopy (AFM/SPM) for both materials and bioscience applications. Started by former employees of Digital Instruments in 1999, Asylum is dedicated to innovative instrumentation for nanoscience and nanotechnology, with over 200 years combined AFM/SPM experience from our scientists, engineers and software developers. Our instruments are used for a variety of nanoscience applications in material science, physics, polymers, chemistry, biomaterials, and bioscience, including single molecule mechanical experiments on DNA, protein unfolding and polymer elasticity, as well as force measurements for biomaterials, chemical sensing, polymers, colloidal forces, adhesion, and more. Asylum’s product line offers advanced imaging and measurement capabilities for a wide range of samples, including Dual AC™ mode, iDrive,™ Q-control, electrical characterization (CAFM, KFM, EFM), high voltage piezoresponse force microscopy (PFM), magnetic force microscopy (MFM) with our unique variable field module, quantitative nanoindenting, and a wide range of environmental accessories and application-ready modules.
Asylum’s MFP-3D, set the standard for AFM technology, with unprecedented precision and flexibility. The MFP-3D is the first AFM with true independent piezo positioning in all three axes, combined with low noise closed-loop feedback sensor technology. The MFP-3D offers both top and bottom sample viewing for easy integration with most commercially-available inverted optical microscopes.
Asylum’s new Cypher AFM is the first completely new small sample AFM/SPM in over a decade, and sets the new standard as the world’s highest resolution AFM. Cypher provides low-drift closed loop atomic resolution for the most accurate images and measurements possible today, rapid AC imaging with small cantilevers, Spot-On™ automated laser alignment for easy setup, integrated thermal, acoustic and vibration control, and broad support for all major AFM/SPM scanning modes and capabilities.
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