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Educational Atomic Force Microscope (AFM)


  • Designed for Education, Demonstration, and Classroom Use
  • Easy-to-Use Kits Include Components Plus Educational Materials

Breadboard Not Included

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Atomic Force Microscope
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A student adjusts the laser beam collimation in the EDU-AFM1(/M).
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Educational Atomic Force Microscope

  • Designed for Education, Demonstration, and Classroom Use
  • Complete Kit Includes All Hardware Except Breadboard Plus Extensive Manual and Teaching Materials
  • Easy to Assemble and Use
  • Choose from Kits Containing Imperial or Metric Components

Experiment

  • Build an Atomic Force Microscope
  • Learn about the Fundamental Forces between Atoms at the Probe Tip and Sample Surface
  • Learn About Nanometer-Precision Motion Control and Hysteresis with Piezo-Driven Actuators
  • Understand the Principles Behind Various Scanning Methods such as Constant Height and Constant Force Mode
  • Includes CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray Disc Samples as well as Microstructure for Calibration

Thorlabs' Educational Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) includes all of the components* needed for students to build a basic atomic force microscope. This teaching system allows students to handle and adjust the setup while performing experiments to image one of the included samples. While not a research grade instrument, the system can achieve sufficient resolution to demonstrate the physical properties of and technology used in AFMs. It is capable of imaging in constant height, constant force, and lateral force mode, as well as recording force-distance curves.

In addition to the microscope components, the kit includes:

  • Intuitive EDU-AFM Software Package for Microscope Control via a PC Running a Windows™ Operating System
  • Microstructure Calibration Sample
  • 10 Contact Mode AFM Probes
  • CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray Disc Samples at No Additional Cost
  • Extensive Manual with Instructions for Building the AFM, Theory of Operation, and Student Exercises

Together, these features make Thorlabs' educational atomic force microscope a broad-based, application-oriented setup that is an ideal introduction for advanced undergraduate students.

*The AFM must be mounted on an optical table or breadboard, which is not included in this kit. If your lab does not already have a suitable one, we recommend using the B1824F Nexus Honeycomb Breadboard with the AV5 Damping Feet for the imperial kits (B4560A with AV5/M, respectively, for metric kits), which are available for purchase separately below. Do not use a standard aluminum breadboard, as it will not sufficiently isolate the AFM from vibrations.

Thorlabs Educational Products

Thorlabs' line of educational products aims to promote physics, optics, and photonics by covering many classic experiments, as well as emerging fields of research. Each kit includes all the necessary components and a manual that contains both detailed setup instructions and extensive teaching materials. These kits are being offered at the price of the included components, with the educational materials offered for free. Technical support from our educational team is available both before and after purchase.

Purchasing Note: English and German language manuals/teaching information are available for this product. The imperial kit contains the English manual and US-style power cord. The appropriate manual and power cord will be included in the metric kit based on your shipping location. Please contact Tech Support if you need a different language, cord style, or power supply. As with all products on our website, taxes are not included in the price shown below.

EDU-AFM Breadboard Layout
A Schematic of the EDU-AFM1(/M) Educational Atomic Force Microscope. The red lines represent the path of the laser light and the blue lines represent electrical connections.

Thorlabs demonstration/educational atomic force microscope (AFM) kit is designed for classroom, lab, and other educational uses. It features an AFM probe, a sample holder on a motorized stage with motorized closed-loop positioning control, a laser and four-segment photodiode detector for measuring the probe deflection, and the intuitive EDU-AFM software package to control the setup.

Operation
AFM measurements use a probe, comprised of a flexible cantilever that supports a nanometer-scale tip, to scan the surface structure of samples. The schematic to the right illustrates how the EDU-AFM1(/M) Educational AFM operates. Laser light is provided by a 635 nm fiber-coupled benchtop source. A patch cable feeds the laser light into a collimator consisting of a lens in an adjustable zoom housing. This collimator is mounted on a 3-axis kinematic mount so that the focused laser spot can be centered on the cantilever surface. Light reflected from the cantilever enters the detector mount assembly, where it is again focused onto the surface of a four-segment photodiode. The voltage measurement from the photodiode provides a measurement of the cantilever deflection that can either be used directly to create an image or in a feedback loop to control the height of the sample stage.

Sample Stage and Cantilever
In the EDU-AFM1(/M), the probe remains stationary while a sample is moved underneath the probe tip using a MAX311D(/M) 3-Axis Stage with Closed-Loop Piezos. The probe is held in a custom mount secured to an AMA009(/M) Platform that connects to the stationary side of the MAX311D(/M), as shown in the image below. KPZ101 K-Cube Piezo Controllers are used to drive each axis of the sample stage. The piezo controllers for the X and Y axes are each paired with a KSG101 Strain Gauge Reader, which measures the piezo deflection. Together, these K-cubes provide closed-loop control to accurately set and maintain the stage position in X and Y. The KPZ101 used for Z-axis control is connected to a KPA101 K-Cube Position Sensing Detector Auto Aligner with an internal digital signal processor (DSP) that is used to monitor the cantilever deflection, as explained below.

side view showing cantilever & sample stage locations
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Laser Collimation (Top Right), Cantilever (Center), and Detector Mount (Top Left) Assemblies

Image Acquisition and Measurement Modes
Before beginning a scan, the system is set up so that the light reflected from the cantilever is incident on the center of the four-segment photodiode detector. As the sample is scanned, the cantilever will begin to deflect, moving the spot away from the center of the detector and changing the output voltage signals. Depending on the scanning mode, this output voltage signal is used in different ways. In Constant Height Mode, the voltage signal is used directly as height information. The EDU-AFM software pairs each voltage measurement with the XY position on the sample to create a contour map of the surface.

Ideas for Modifying the Kit?

We strongly encourage users to make their own modifications to our kits to enhance or expand the kits' capabilities, including adding or altering components. If you would like to share your modifications with the community, let us know and we will add your ideas with a reference to the kit webpage.

In Constant Force Mode, the system is set up to keep the cantilever deflection constant: this is accomplished by setting up a closed feedback loop between the photodiode, the DSP in the auto aligner, and the Z-axis piezo controller. When the four segment photodiode detects a change in the laser spot position, the DSP in the auto aligner calculates the adjustment to the sample height needed to maintain the initial cantilever deflection. This signal is used by the EDU-AFM software as height information, combined with the data from the X- and Y-axis piezo controllers, to create a contour map of the sample surface.

In addition to these two scanning modes, the EDU-AFM1(/M) can also measure the lateral forces on the cantilever and the way forces on the cantilever change as the sample surface is approached. For more information on AFM scanning modes, see the AFM Basics tab.

Laser Safety Information
The class 3R laser used in this kit emits in excess of 2.5 mW of optical power, which can cause damage to the eyes if viewed directly. We recommend wearing appropriate laser safety glasses when using this kit. See the Laser Safety tab for details.

Atomic Force Microscope Specifications
Image Acquisition
Scan Area 0.05 µm x 0.05 µm (Min)
20 µm x 20 µm (Max)
Sampled Pixels per Line 50, 100, 250, or 500
Scan Speed 1 Pixel/s (Min)
200 Pixels/s (Max)
Time per Image (Examples) 4 Minutes for 100 x 100 Pixels Sampled at 100 Pixels/s
11 Minutes for 250 x 250 Pixels Sampled at 200 Pixels/s
25 Minutes for 500 x 500 Pixels Sampled at 200 Pixels/s (Forward Only)
Resolution For the educational AFM we refrain from giving
a resolution limit due to varying setup alignments.
Typically, features on the scale of 10 nm can be distinguished.a
Properties and Modes
AFM Tips Recommended: Al-Coated Cantilever (10 Tips from BudgetSensors Included with Kit)b
Standard Contact Cantileversc are also Usable
AFM Modes Constant Force
Constant Height
Lateral Force
Force-Distance Curves
Feedback Systems XY Closed-Loop Piezo Stage with KSG101 Strain Gauge Reader
Tip Engagement on Surface Manual Approach with Differential Adjusters
with Assisted Piezo Feedback Compensation
Laser Wavelength 635 nm
Laser Output Power 0.01 to 2.5  mW
PC Requirements
Operating System Windows® XP, Service Pack 3 (32 Bit), 7, 8, or 10 (32 Bit or 64 Bit)
Windows® Installer 3.1 or Higher
Additional Software Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0 Client Profile is required. If installing while connected to the internet, the installer will automatically check for the file and download it from the internet if necessary.
USB Ports Three USB 2.0
  • As an example, the kit was used to image a PELCO® AFM Tip and Resolution Test Specimen, which consists of a single layer of cobalt particles. The particles are flattened half-spheres with a radius typically larger than the height and particle heights varying between 1 and 5 nm. We imaged this sample with the EDU-AFM1(/M) kit and measured particle sizes of approximately 25 nm in diameter. The tip diameter is approximately 15 nm, which results in a resolved particle size of 10 nm. See the Image Gallery for an image of the PELCO® AFM Tip and Resolution Test Specimen obtained with the EDU-AFM1.
  • Additional AFM tips with Al-coated cantilevers are available from BudgetSensors.
  • Standard AFM tips are available from BudgetSensors.
AFM Cantilever Tip
Click to Enlarge

This image was taken with the digital microscope included in the AFM kit and shows the laser focused on the cantilever.

What is Atomic Force Microscopy?

Atomic force microscopy, a form of scanning probe microscopy, offers fascinating insights into structures beyond the resolution limits of optical microscopy and therefore into the world of nanostructures. The scanning method is based on a fine scanning probe, which consists of a flexible arm called a cantilever that supports a tip radius less than 10 nm. As the tip interacts with the surface of a sample, the deflection of the cantilever is recorded in order to create an elevation profile of the surface line by line. For an atomic force microscope (AFM) to function properly, the cantilever must meet several requirements. A low spring constant is needed so that small forces can be measured. It must have a large resonance frequency to minimize the influence of mechanical oscillations. Therefore, the cantilever must both have low mass and a small size.

In the EDU-AFM1(/M), the light from a laser source is focused onto the cantilever by a focusing lens in an adjustable zoom housing. The light reflected from the cantilever strikes a position-sensing detector (four-segment photodiode). When the cantilever is deflected during scanning due to a change in the surface height, the corresponding deflection of the laser beam is measured, and then read and processed by the digital signal processor (DSP). Depending on the scanning mode used (detailed below), the deflection-dependent voltages from the four-segment photodiode can be used as height information to create a contour map of the sample surface or as a feedback signal between the DSP and a z-axis positioning unit supporting the sample. In the latter case, the Z-axis positioning unit can be used to adjust the height of the sample to maintain a constant cantilever deflection (as measured by the four segment photodiode), and a contour map the sample surface is created by recording the changes in the stage height.

Measurement Modes

All AFM scanning modes are based on the interaction between the probe tip and the sample, but different aspects of this interaction can be probed when examining a sample. In general, AFM modes can be divided into two categories. In contact scanning modes, the cantilever tip is dragged across the surface of the sample and the effects on the deflection of the cantilever are measured. In dynamic scanning modes, the tip of the cantilever is forced to oscillate and the effects of this oscillation are measured. The EDU-AFM1(/M) is only capable scanning in a contact mode, so we will focus on the two types of contact modes here: constant height mode and constant force mode.

Constant Force Scan
Figure 2: In Constant Force Mode, the cantilever deflection remains constant and the movement of the probe holder (or sample) needed to maintain that deflection is measured.
Constant Height Scan
Figure 1: In Constant Height Mode, the sample height remains constant and the cantilever deflection is measured.

Constant Height
Constant height mode is the simplest scanning method since it only requires the measurement of the cantilever deflection. The sample and cantilever are held at a constant distance from each other and the probe tip is scanned over the surface of the sample, as illustrated in Figure 1. The deflection of the cantilever is measured, and this is used to create a contour map of the sample surface. The downside is that this method only works for relatively flat samples, as the motion of the cantilever is limited by the size of the cantilever and its flexibility. Deep structures can result in a loss of contact with the sample or cause damage to or deformation of the cantilever or sample.

Constant Force
Constant force mode, illustrated in Figure 2, uses a feedback mechanism to adjust either the probe or sample height in order to maintain a constant cantilever deflection. In the case of the EDU-AFM1(/M), the deflection of the cantilever is measured by the four-segment photodiode, and a DSP uses resulting feedback to calculate the Z-piezo voltage needed to keep the deflection constant. This Z-piezo control voltage is recorded and used to create a contour map of the sample surface. This scanning method can probe deeper surface structures than constant height mode without a loss of contact or damage to the cantilever or sample, as the force acting on the cantilever is constant.

Constant Force Scan
Figure 3: In lateral force mode, the torsion of the cantilever is measured instead of the deflection. The tip torsion will behave differently than the deflection for changes in sample surface height and changes in the sample surface material.

Lateral Force Measurement (LFM)
When performing scans in constant force or constant height mode, additional information can be gathered from the torsion of the cantilever. This most commonly occurs at steep edges in the sample, or due to changes in friction at the sample surface caused by a change in the material. This deflection caused by torsion of the tip will be perpendicular to the deflection caused by changes in sample feature height, allowing the two signals to be separated. Figure 3 provides a comparison between the different profiles that result when a lateral force measurement is taken.

Force-Distance Curves
In addition to topography measurements, atomic force microscopes can also record force-distance curves, which serve as an important tool in many sciences including biochemistry and biology. These curves measure the change in force as the probe tip approaches the sample surface, which can be used to determine physical characteristics such as the modulus of elasticity. When conducting a force-distance measurement, the sample is moved towards the probe tip before being retracted. This causes the cantilever to deflect in response to the forces near the sample surface as illustrated in Figure 4, and this deflection is recorded as a function of the distance between the probe and the sample.

As the sample is moved towards the probe, there will be a point where attractive forces cause the tip to engage with the sample (Snap-In). The sample continues to move towards the probe until the cantilever straightens, and is then deflected upward. Then, the sample is moved downwards again. The probe tip will remain engaged with the sample surface until the restoring spring force of the cantilever is greater than the adhesive forces between the tip and the sample, at which point the cantilever will return to its rest position (Pull-Off). Note that the height of the sample at Snap-In and Pull-Off are not the same.


Figure 4: This schematic illustrates how the cantilever deformation changes during a Force-Distance Measurement. The red arrows indicate the motion of the sample relative to the probe holder, while the blue arrows indicate the motion of the cantilever. The green arrows indicate the difference in sample height between when the cantilever first engages with the sample (Snap-In) and when the cantilever disengages with the sample (Pull-Off).
AFM Calibration
Click to Enlarge

Screenshot of the Gwyddion Software During the XY Calibration Procedure

After students construct the educational AFM, they can complete a series of exercises outlined in the manual to practice different scanning methods and familiarize themselves with post-processing techniques in Gwyddion (see the Software tab). This tab includes a brief summary of the experiments included with the EDU-AFM1(/M) kit, with exercise numbers that match the manual.

Lateral Calibration using the Included Microstructure

The AFM can be calibrated using the included microstructure to enhance the measurement accuracy. Through this set of exercises, students learn how to check or redo the calibration. Lateral calibration allows for the instrument to accurately record the location of each data point in X and Y. The microstructure sample is designed specifically for this purpose with 100 nm tall features that are arranged with a pitch that varies between 5 µm and 10 µm.

Exercise 1.1: Measure the circle structure of the microstructure sample in a 20 µm x 20 µm scanning window in constant force mode with the default calibration settings. Measure the same image with strain gauge feedback enabled and disabled.

Exercise 1.2: Use the Gwyddion software to determine the structure pitch in the X and Y directions, and calculate the feature size compared to the datasheet information in %.

Exercise 1.3: Enter the calibration data from Exercise 1.2 into the EDU-AFM software, and record the same image again to check the calibration results.

AFM Image of a CD
Click to Enlarge

This image of a CD was taken with the EDU-AFM1. The pit length (red line), pit width (blue line), and track width (green line) are marked.

Topography of CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray Discs

This kit includes CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray disc samples that were taken out of the production process prior to encapsulation. This means that the stamped surface is accessible and ready for a surface scan. Students can image each type of disc, measure the surface features, and compare the data densities of the different encoding methods

Exercise 2.1: Record an image of the CD surface in constant force mode.

Exercise 2.2: Record an image of the DVD in constant force mode.

Exercise 2.3: Record an image of the Blu-Ray disc in constant force mode.

Exercise 2.4: Determine the track width, track pitch, minimum and maximum pit length of the CD, DVD and Blu-Ray disc.

Exercise 2.5: Determine the pit depth using the profile function in Gwyddion. Compare the pit depths of the CD, DVD and Blu-ray samples and explain why they are different.

Exercise 2.6: Calculate the maximum storage capacity of a CD.

Lateral Force Measurement

Students practice taking lateral force measurements with the AFM using the included microstructure sample and a human hair.

Exercise 3.1: Scan the microstructure sample in constant height mode, recording a lateral force image in a 20 µm x 20 µm scan area. Interpret the profile information.

Exercise 3.2.1: Record the topography of a human hair. Scan the hair in constant force mode.

Exercise 3.2.2: Record a lateral force image of a hair in constant height mode.

Force-Distance Curve
Click to Enlarge

A screenshot from the EDU-AFM software showing a force-distance measurement. The key features of the curve have been labeled.

Force-Distance Measurement

This series of exercises familiarizes students with force-distance measurements. These measurements can be used to determine the adhesion force between the tip and the sample surface, as well as the modulus of elasticity. The cantilever spring constant can also be calculated.

Exercise 4.1: Record a force-distance curve (without zoom) of the microstructure sample and determine the rest position, snap-in, and pull-off. What effects are observable?

Exercise 5.1: Determine the spring constant of the cantilever.

Exercise 6.1: Measure the force-distance curve of various samples (for example: stainless steel, plastic or rubber). Label the most interesting points of a force-distance curve.

Exercise 6.2: Determine the maximum adhesion force.

Exercise 7.1: Compare the deflection of the cantilever with a hard (non-deformable) sample to the sample for which you want to estimate the modulus of elasticity.

Exercise 7.2: From Exercise 7.1, determine the depth of the cantilever deflection compared to the reference sample and use this to estimate Young's modulus of elasticity.

Atomic Force Microscope Kit Components

The EDU-AFM1(/M) must be mounted on an optical table or breadboard. As these are common in many labs, we have not included a breadboard in this kit. If you need to purchase a breadboard separately, we recommend the B1824F Nexus Honeycomb Breadboard with the AV5 Damping Feet for the imperial kits (B4560A with AV5/M, respectively, for metric kits), which are available separately below.

Atomic Force Microscope

Thorlabs' Atomic Force Microscope Kits are available in imperial and metric versions. In cases where the metric and imperial kits contain parts with different item numbers, metric part numbers and measurements are indicated by parentheses unless otherwise noted.

Item # Description Qty.
Laser, Fiber, and Mounting
S1FC635 Fiber-Coupled Laser Source, 635 nm, 2.5 mW 1
P1-630A-FC-1 Single Mode Fiber 1
F280FC-B Fiber Collimator 1
KS1T Kinematic Mount, 3 Adjusters 1
SM1L05a SM1 Lens Tube, 1/2" Long 1
SM1NR05 Adjustable Lens Tube for 1/2" Optics 1
AD11F SM1-Threaded Collimator Mounting Adapter 1
LA1213-A Ø1/2" Plano-Convex Lens, f = 50.0 mm 1
Detector, Controller, and Mounting
PDQ80A Four-Segment Photodiode 1
KPA101 Auto Aligner with Digital Signal Processor (DSP) 1
K6XS 6-Axis Kinematic Mount 1
SM05CP2 SM05-Threaded End Cap 1
SM1A6 SM1 to SM05 Adapter 1
SM05L10 SM05 Lens Tube, 1" Long 1
SM05T2 SM05 Lens Tube Coupler 1
SM05L05 SM05 Lens Tube, 1/2" Long 1
LA1422-A Ø1" Plano-Convex Lens, f = 40.0 mm 1
DG05-1500 Ø1/2" Glass Diffuser Plate 2
SM1L05a SM1 Lens Tube, 1/2" Long 1
SM1V05 SM1 Adjustable Lens Tube 1
SM1L03 SM1 Lens Tube, 0.3" Long 1
SM05L03 SM05 Lens Tube to Hold Diffuser Plate 1
Damped Post and Adapter Plate
DP8A (DP8A/M) Ø1.5" Damped Post 1
- Mounting Clamp, 2.5" x 2.5" (64 mm x 64 mm) 1
- Adapter Plate 1
PSHA (PSHA/M) Ø1.5" Adjustable Height Collar 1
Item # Description Qty.
Sample Stage and Cantilever Holder
MAX311D (MAX311D/M) 3-Axis NanoMax Stage, Differential Drives,
Closed-Loop Piezos
1
KPZ101 Piezo Controller 3
KSG101 Strain Gauge Controller 2
KCH601b K-Cube Controller  Hub 1
HWM003 Sample Support 1
AMA009 (AMA009/M) Extension Platform 1
- Mounting Block 1
KB1X1 (KB25/M) Magnetic Holder 1
- Probe Holder 1
- Probe Holder Counter Piece 1
Accessories
- Tweezers 1
- Calibration Sample: BudgetSensors HS-100MG 1
- Al-Coated Cantilever (Box of 10) 1
CA2824 Male SMA to BNC Cable, 24" 3
- Label Sheet 1
- Digital Microscope 1
- Ground Cable 1
- National Instruments 6009 USB DAQ Card 1
- BNC to DAQ Connection 1
CS1 Cable Clamps (Qty. 15) 1
- Cable Duct 1
CL6 Table Clamp 2
- CD Sample 1
- DVD Sample 1
- Blu-Ray Sample 1
- Ruler 1

Imperial Kit: Included Hardware and Screws

Item # Description Qty. Item # Description Qty.
SH25S025c 1/4"-20 Cap Screw,
1/4" Long
31 SH8S025e 8-32 Cap Screw,
1/4" Long
1
SH25S038c 1/4"-20 Cap Screw,
3/8" Long
10 SH8S038e 8-32 Cap Screw,
3/8" Long
4
SH25S050c 1/4"-20 Cap Screw,
1/2" Long
3 - 8-32 Cap Screw,
5/8" Long
1
SH25S063c 1/4"-20 Cap Screw,
5/8" Long
6 - 2-56 Countersunk Head
Screw, 1/4" Long
3
W25S050d 1/4" Washer 45 CCHK Hex Key Set 1
BD-3/16L 3/16" Balldriver 1 SPW606 SM1 Spanner Wrench 1
BD-9/64 8-32 Ball Driver 1 SPW603 SM05 Spanner Wrench 1

Metric Kit: Included Hardware and Screws

Item # Description Qty. Item # Description Qty.
SH6MS06c M6 Cap Screw,
6 mm Long
31 SH4MS06e M4 Cap Screw,
6 mm Long
1
SH6MS10c M6 Cap Screw,
10 mm Long
10 SH4MS10e M4 Cap Screw,
10 mm Long
4
SH6MS12c M6 Cap Screw,
12 mm Long
3 SH4MS16e M4 Cap Screw,
16 mm Long
1
SH6MS16c M6 Cap Screw,
16 mm Long
6 - M2.5 Countersunk Head
Screw, 6 mm Long
3
W25S050d M6 Washer 45 CCHK/M Hex Key Set 1
BD-5ML 5 mm Balldriver 1 SPW606 SM1 Spanner Wrench 1
BD-3M 3 mm Balldriver 1 SPW603 SM05 Spanner Wrench 1
  • A total of 2 SM1L05 lens tubes are included with this kit, in the laser collimation and detector mounting assemblies.
  • A location-specific adapter ships with the power supply based on your location.
  • This kit contains the number of screws indicated in the Qty. column; replacements, which are sold in packages of 25, are available by ordering the Item # listed.
  • This kit contains the number of washers indicated in the Qty. column; replacements, which are sold in packages of 100, are available by ordering the Item # listed.
  • This kit contains the number of screws indicated in the Qty. column; replacements, which are sold in packages of 50, are available by ordering the Item # listed.

Software

Each kit includes a USB stick with the free EDU-AFM software package, used to control the AFM and record measurements. The software features a graphical representation of the Four Segment Photodetector, as well as separate tabs for each measuring mode. Measurements can be saved as an image or in data format. If the original USB stick is lost, please contact Tech Support for another copy of the software. Future software updates will be made available for free, and can be accessed through the EDU-AFM's Software Update function.

Gwyddion
The kit also makes use of Gwyddion, a popular image processing program for AFM measurements. A tutorial for importing data in Gwyddion and image post processing tips are provided in the EDU-AFM1(/M) manual. The package can be downloaded here.

Beam Position
Click to Enlarge

A graphical representation of the four segment photodiode in the EDU-AFM software. The voltage produced by the four-segment photodiode by the laser total intensity (SUM) and the laser position (XDIFF/YDIFF) appear in the upper right hand corner of the graph. The XY position of the stage, as well as the feedback from the strain gauge and z-axis controller, appear in the side bar.
Constant Height Scan
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An example measurement of the microstructure sample in Constant Height Mode.
Beam Position
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An example of a force-distance curve. The stage moves upwards by 4 µm (15 V), and the cantilever deflection as it interacts with the sample is measured. This data can be used to calculate the adhesion forces and Young's modulus of the material.

Assembly of the EDU-AFM1(/M) kit. The breadboard is not included, but can be purchased separately below.
Drawings and 3D Modelsa
Document
Description
EDU-AFM1 EDU-AFM1/M
Auto CAD PDF
Auto CAD DXF
Solidworks
eDrawing
Step
  • The breadboard shown in these models is not included with the kit.

Kit Assembly

The video to the right shows the steps for assembling the EDU-AFM1(/M) kit. The video speed can be adjusted by clicking on the gear icon in the lower right-hand corner of the player.

A mechanical drawing and 3D models of the setup in the video are provided through the links to the right. Please note that while the drawings and solid models show a breadboard, one is not included in the kit as breadboards and optical tables are a staple in many labs. A B1824F Nexus Honeycomb Breadboard for the imperial kit or B4560A Nexus Honeycomb Breadboard for the metric kit can be purchased separately below; a standard aluminum breadboard should not be used with the kit as it will not sufficiently isolate the AFM from vibrations.


Changing the Cantilever Tip
AFM Cantilever
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AFM Cantilever Tip

Changing the AFM Probe

Over time, the tip of the AFM probe will wear, eventually leading to a tip diameter that is larger than the expected features or image artifacts. When this happens, the probe should be changed, as demonstrated in the video to the right.

The EDU-AFM1(/M) kit includes 10 BudgetSensors ContactAl-G* probes. The cantilevers on these probes have an enhanced reflectivity due to their aluminum coating, leading to less light from stray reflections off of the sample surface. Standard cantilever tips can also be used.

*BudgetSensors cantilevers can be found here.

Educational Atomic Force Microscope Image Gallery

The images below were all taken using Thorlabs' Educational Atomic Force Microscope (AFM). Of the samples shown below, the microstructure sample and blu-ray disc are included with the kit. If you would like to share your own AFM images, you can submit them to techsupport@thorlabs.com and we'll consider them for addition to the image gallery.

 

BudgetSensors HS100-MG Microstructure (Included with Kit)


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2D Image Taken with EDU-AFM Software

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3D View Generated by Post Processing in Gwyddion

Image of the BudgetSensors HS-100MG Microstructure included with the EDU-AFM1(/M) kit.
Acquisition Settings: Constant Force Mode, 250 Sampled Pixels, Default PID Settings, 200 Pixels/s Scan Speed


Blu-Ray Disc (Included with Kit)


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2D Image taken with EDU-AFM1(/M)

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3D View Generated by Post Processing in Gwyddion

Image of the Blu-Ray Sample (Open Layer) included with the EDU-AFM1(/M) kit.
Acquisition Settings: Constant Force Mode, 250 Sampled Pixels, P = 0.8, I = 0.4, D = 0.2, 50 Pixels/s Scan Speed


AFM Stripe Artifacts


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2D Image of Microstructure

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2D Image of CD

These images show examples of stripe artifacts caused by dust pushed over the surface of the microstructure sample by the probe tip (left) and the soft sample surface of the stamped CD structure (right).
Acquisition Settings: Constant Force Mode, 250 Sampled Pixels, Default PID Settings, 200 Pixels/s Scan Speed


Moth Eye Cones


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2D Image taken with EDU-AFM1(/M)

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3D View Generated by Post Processing in Gwyddion

Image of Moth Eye Cones
Acquisition Settings: Constant Force Mode, 250 Sampled Pixels, Default PID Settings, 100 Pixels/s Scan Speed


Dried Blood Cell


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2D Image taken with EDU-AFM1(/M)

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3D View Generated by Post Processing in Gwyddion with Colorized Overlay

Image of a Dried Blood Cell
Acquisition Settings: Constant Force Mode, 250 Sampled Pixels, Default PID Settings, 100 Pixels/s Scan Speed


Human Hair


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2D Image taken with EDU-AFM1(/M)

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3D View Generated by Post Processing in Gwyddion

Image of a Human Hair
Acquisition Settings: Constant Force Mode, 100 Sampled Pixels, Default PID Settings, 100 Pixels/s Scan Speed


Cobalt Nanoparticles


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2D Image taken with EDU-AFM1(/M)

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3D View Generated by Post Processing in Gwyddion

As an example, the Educational AFM Kit was used to image a PELCO® AFM Tip and Resolution Test Specimen, which consists of a single layer of cobalt particles. The particles are flattened half-spheres with a radius typically larger than the height and particles heights varying between 1 and 5 nm. When imaged with the EDU-AFM1, the measured particle size was approximately 25 nm in diameter. The tip diameter is approximately 15 nm, which results in a resolved particle size of 10 nm. Further information can be found in the manual.
Acquisition Settings: Constant Force Mode, 100 Sampled Pixels, Default PID Settings, 100 Pixels/s Scan Speed

 

User Images: Courtesy of Richard Becher (KIT)

These images, taken using the Educational AFM, were provided to Thorlabs by Richard Becher from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).


Gore-Tex®


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2D Image Taken with EDU-AFM Software

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3D View Generated by Post Processing in Gwyddion

The pores in Gore-Tex® material are smaller than 1 µm, making them too small for water drops to pass through. Vapor can pass through the other side of the fabric, making this material both breathable and waterproof.
Acquisition Settings: Constant Force Mode, 250 Sampled Pixels, P = 0.2, I = 0.2, D = 0.2, 200 Pixels/s Scan Speed


Structures to Enhance Solar Cell Light Absorption


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2D Image taken with EDU-AFM1(/M)




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3D View Generated by Post Processing in Gwyddion

The geometrical structure of rose petal skins enhances their light-absorbing capabilities. Scientists at KIT have applied materials molded to match this structure to the surface of solar cells, enhancing their light gathering capabilities. The images above are of one such structure. Sample courtesy of the Light Technology Institute at KIT Karlsruhe (www.lti.kit.edu).
Acquisition Settings: Constant Force Mode, 250 Sampled Pixels, P = 0.2, I = 0.2, D = 0.2, 100 Pixels/s Scan Speed


Synthetic Moth Eye Structures


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2D Image taken with EDU-AFM1(/M)

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3D View Generated by Post Processing in Gwyddion

Moth eyes are covered in an array of light sensitive cones that reduce reflections at the air-chitin border. Materials with an array of cones that are the same size as those in a real moth eye are used in technology to make surfaces antireflective. Sample courtesy of temicon® (www.temicon.com).
Acquisition Settings: Constant Force Mode, 250 Sampled Pixels, Default PID Settings, 100 Pixels/s Scan Speed


Irridescent Butterfly Wing


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2D Image taken with EDU-AFM1(/M)




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A photograph showing the irridescence of the butterfly wing.

The cascading nanostructures found on the wings of the Morpho Aega butterfly are responsible for its irridescent color. This sample is courtesy of Naturkundemuseum Karlsruhe (www.smnk.de).
Acquisition Settings: Constant Force Mode, 250 Sampled Pixels, Default PID Settings, 100 Pixels/s Scan Speed

 

Have you or your class taken an image with the EDU-AFM1(/M) that you would like to share? If so, e-mail your photos to us at techsupport@thorlabs.com and we'll consider them for addition to the image gallery.

Laser Safety and Classification

Safe practices and proper usage of safety equipment should be taken into consideration when operating lasers. The eye is susceptible to injury, even from very low levels of laser light. Thorlabs offers a range of laser safety accessories that can be used to reduce the risk of accidents or injuries. Laser emission in the visible and near infrared spectral ranges has the greatest potential for retinal injury, as the cornea and lens are transparent to those wavelengths, and the lens can focus the laser energy onto the retina. 

Laser Barriers Laser Safety Signs
Laser Glasses Alignment Tools Shutter and Controllers
Laser Viewing Cards Blackout Materials Enclosure Systems

Safe Practices and Light Safety Accessories

  • Thorlabs recommends the use of safety eyewear whenever working with laser beams with non-negligible powers (i.e., > Class 1) since metallic tools such as screwdrivers can accidentally redirect a beam.
  • Laser goggles designed for specific wavelengths should be clearly available near laser setups to protect the wearer from unintentional laser reflections.
  • Goggles are marked with the wavelength range over which protection is afforded and the minimum optical density within that range.
  • Laser Safety CurtainsLaser Barriers and Blackout Materials can prevent direct or reflected light from leaving the experimental setup area.
  • Thorlabs' Enclosure Systems can be used to contain optical setups to isolate or minimize laser hazards.
  • A fiber-pigtailed laser should always be turned off before connecting it to or disconnecting it from another fiber, especially when the laser is at power levels above 10 mW.
  • All beams should be terminated at the edge of the table, and laboratory doors should be closed whenever a laser is in use.
  • Do not place laser beams at eye level.
  • Carry out experiments on an optical table such that all laser beams travel horizontally.
  • Remove unnecessary reflective items such as reflective jewelry (e.g., rings, watches, etc.) while working near the beam path.
  • Be aware that lenses and other optical devices may reflect a portion of the incident beam from the front or rear surface.
  • Operate a laser at the minimum power necessary for any operation.
  • If possible, reduce the output power of a laser during alignment procedures.
  • Use beam shutters and filters to reduce the beam power.
  • Post appropriate warning signs or labels near laser setups or rooms.
  • Use a laser sign with a lightbox if operating Class 3R or 4 lasers (i.e., lasers requiring the use of a safety interlock).
  • Do not use Laser Viewing Cards in place of a proper Laser Barrier or Beam Trap.

 

Laser Classification

Lasers are categorized into different classes according to their ability to cause eye and other damage. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is a global organization that prepares and publishes international standards for all electrical, electronic, and related technologies. The IEC document 60825-1 outlines the safety of laser products. A description of each class of laser is given below:

Class Description Warning Label
1 This class of laser is safe under all conditions of normal use, including use with optical instruments for intrabeam viewing. Lasers in this class do not emit radiation at levels that may cause injury during normal operation, and therefore the maximum permissible exposure (MPE) cannot be exceeded. Class 1 lasers can also include enclosed, high-power lasers where exposure to the radiation is not possible without opening or shutting down the laser.  Class 1
1M Class 1M lasers are safe except when used in conjunction with optical components such as telescopes and microscopes. Lasers belonging to this class emit large-diameter or divergent beams, and the MPE cannot normally be exceeded unless focusing or imaging optics are used to narrow the beam. However, if the beam is refocused, the hazard may be increased and the class may be changed accordingly.  Class 1M
2 Class 2 lasers, which are limited to 1 mW of visible continuous-wave radiation, are safe because the blink reflex will limit the exposure in the eye to 0.25 seconds. This category only applies to visible radiation (400 - 700 nm).  Class 2
2M Because of the blink reflex, this class of laser is classified as safe as long as the beam is not viewed through optical instruments. This laser class also applies to larger-diameter or diverging laser beams.  Class 2M
3R Lasers in this class are considered safe as long as they are handled with restricted beam viewing. The MPE can be exceeded with this class of laser, however, this presents a low risk level to injury. Visible, continuous-wave lasers are limited to 5 mW of output power in this class.  Class 3R
3B Class 3B lasers are hazardous to the eye if exposed directly. However, diffuse reflections are not harmful. Safe handling of devices in this class includes wearing protective eyewear where direct viewing of the laser beam may occur. In addition, laser safety signs lightboxes should be used with lasers that require a safety interlock so that the laser cannot be used without the safety light turning on. Class-3B lasers must be equipped with a key switch and a safety interlock.  Class 3B
4 This class of laser may cause damage to the skin, and also to the eye, even from the viewing of diffuse reflections. These hazards may also apply to indirect or non-specular reflections of the beam, even from apparently matte surfaces. Great care must be taken when handling these lasers. They also represent a fire risk, because they may ignite combustible material. Class 4 lasers must be equipped with a key switch and a safety interlock.  Class 4
All class 2 lasers (and higher) must display, in addition to the corresponding sign above, this triangular warning sign  Warning Symbol

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Posted Comments:
Poster:desantic
Posted Date:2017-05-26 17:08:23.14
Is it possible to electrically contact the tip (i.e. to use it to probe or supply current or voltage)?
Poster:jkuchenmeister
Posted Date:2017-05-29 08:53:53.0
A response from Jens at Thorlabs: The tip holder is connected to ground in the standard configuration (yellow and green cable that is fixed to the steel breadboard). You could decouple this connection and use it to supply a voltage to the tip holder. The tip holder itself is electrically decoupled from the rest of the setup through anodised parts. We will contact you personally to discuss your application design.

Atomic Force Microscope Educational Kit

Based on your currency / country selection, your order will ship from Newton, New Jersey  
+1 Qty Docs Part Number - Imperial Price Available / Ships
EDU-AFM1 Support Documentation
EDU-AFM1Educational Atomic Force Microscope, Imperial
$12,574.20
Today
+1 Qty Docs Part Number - Metric Price Available / Ships
EDU-AFM1/M Support Documentation
EDU-AFM1/MEducational Atomic Force Microscope, Metric
$12,574.20
Today

Breadboard and Damping Feet

  • B1824F (B4560A): 18" x 24" (450 mm x 600 mm) Honeycomb Breadboard
    • 1/4"-20 (M6) Taps for Mounting Components
    • Stable Surface for Mounting the EDU-AFM1(/M)
  • AV5(/M): Sorbothane Damping Feet
    • Designed to Aid in Damping Vibrations
    • Include 1/4"-20 (M6) Screws to Mount Directly to a Breadboard
    • Supplied as a Set of 4

The AFM in our EDU-AFM1(/M) kit must be mounted on an optical table or breadboard. As these are common in many labs, we have not included a breadboard in this kit. If you need to purchase a breadboard separately, we recommend the B1824F Nexus Honeycomb Breadboard with the AV5 Damping Feet for the imperial kit or the B4560A Nexus Honeycomb Breadboard with AV5/M Damping Feet for the metric kit, available here. Do not use a standard aluminum breadboard, as it will not sufficiently isolate the setup from vibrations.

Based on your currency / country selection, your order will ship from Newton, New Jersey  
+1 Qty Docs Part Number - Imperial Price Available / Ships
B1824F Support Documentation
B1824FNexus Breadboard, 18" x 24" x 2.4", 1/4"-20 Mounting Holes
$781.00
Today
AV5 Support Documentation
AV5Ø38.1 mm Sorbothane Feet, Internal 1/4"-20 Mounting Thread, 4 Pieces
$26.75
Today
+1 Qty Docs Part Number - Metric Price Available / Ships
B4560A Support Documentation
B4560ANexus Breadboard, 450 mm x 600 mm x 60 mm, M6 x 1.0 Mounting Holes
$781.00
Lead Time
AV5/M Support Documentation
AV5/MØ38.1 mm Sorbothane Feet, Internal M6 Mounting Thread, 4 Pieces
$26.75
Today
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