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Open-Loop Amplitude-Modulation Kelvin Probe Force Microscopy Operated in Single-Pass PeakForce Tapping Mode



Gheorghe Stan, Pradeep Namboodiri


The open-loop (OL) variant of the Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM) provides access to the voltage response of the electrostatic interaction between a conductive atomic force microscopy (AFM) probe and the investigated sample. The measured response can be analyzed a posteriori, modeled, and interpreted to include various contributions from the probe geometry and imaged features of the sample. In contrast to this, the current implemented closed-loop (CL) variants of KPFM, either amplitude-modulation (AM) or frequency-modulation (FM), solely report on their final product in terms of the tip-sample contact potential difference. In ambient atmosphere, both CL AM-KPFM and CL FM-KPFM work at their best during the lift part of a two-pass scanning mode to avoid the direct contact with the surface of the sample. In this work, a new OL AM-KPFM mode was implemented in the single-pass scan of the PeakForce Tapping (PFT) mode. The topographical and electrical components were combined in a single-pass by applying the electrical modulation in between the PFT tip-sample contacts, when the AFM probe separates from the sample. In this way, any contact and tunneling discharges are avoided and, yet, the location of the measured electrical tip-sample interaction is directly affixed to the topography rendered by the mechanical PFT modulation at each tap. Furthermore, because the detailed cantilever's response to the bias stimulation was recorded, it was possible to analyze and separate an average contribution of the cantilever to the determined local contact potential difference between the AFM probe and the sample imaged. The removal of this unwanted contribution greatly improved the accuracy of the AM-KPFM measurements to the level of the FM-KPFM counterpart.
Beilstein Journal of Nanotechnology


Open loop, Kelvin probe force microscopy, surface potential, electrostatic interaction


Stan, G. and Namboodiri, P. (2021), Open-Loop Amplitude-Modulation Kelvin Probe Force Microscopy Operated in Single-Pass PeakForce Tapping Mode, Beilstein Journal of Nanotechnology, [online], (Accessed April 24, 2024)
Created October 6, 2021, Updated November 29, 2022