Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Nanoscale elastic-property measurements and mapping using atomic force acoustic microscopy methods



Donna C. Hurley, M Kopycinski-Muller, Anthony B. Kos, R.H. Geiss


We describe a dynamic atomic force microscopy (AFM) method for measuring the elastic properties of surfaces, thin films and nanostructures at the nanoscale. Our approach is based on atomic force acoustic microscopy (AFAM) techniques and involves the resonant modes of the AFM cantilever in contact mode. From the frequencies of the resonant modes, the tip-sample contact stiffness κ* can be calculated. Values for elastic properties such as the indentation modulus M can be determined from κ* with appropriate contact-mechanics models. We present the basic principles of AFAM and explain how it can be used to measure local elastic properties with a lateral spatial resolution of tens of nanometres. Quantitative results for a variety of films as thin as 50 nm are given to illustrate our methods. Studies related to measurement accuracy involving the effects of film thickness and tip wear are also described. Finally, we discuss the design and use of electronics to track the contact-resonance frequency. This extension of AFAM fixed-position methods will enable rapid quantitative imaging of nanoscale elastic properties.
Measurement Science & Technology


atomic force acoustic microscopy, atomic force microscopy, elastic properties, nanomechanics


Hurley, D. , Kopycinski-Muller, M. , Kos, A. and Geiss, R. (2005), Nanoscale elastic-property measurements and mapping using atomic force acoustic microscopy methods, Measurement Science & Technology, [online], (Accessed June 21, 2024)


If you have any questions about this publication or are having problems accessing it, please contact

Created May 31, 2005, Updated October 12, 2021