Some tips (hints, not AFM tips) for AFM scanning
If you are looking for a short introduction to Scanning Probe Microscopy, you can find it here.
The most commonly used instrument of the Scanning Probe Microscopes (SPM) is the AFM (Atomic Force Microscope). With such an instrument, almost any surface can be scanned mechanically with a high resolution. Actually, most of the information given here concerns AFM microscopes.
One of the most important and quite often neglected aspects of the work with AFM microscopes is the sample surface preparation. With such an instrument, you can observe the structure of a surface with atomic resolution. What most people do, when they get their hands on an AFM is to take a very old sample from the desk and start to look at the surface. The only thing you can be sure of in this case is that the surface structure imaged by the AFM will consist of atoms that do not originate from the sample. Therefore, we will first bring a couple of hints regarding
When you compare AFM images with Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) images, the AFM images often look dull and without contrast. This is partly due to the fact that most surfaces do not look as spectacular as for instance the spatial objects viewed with the SEM. Another important point is that the colour scale in the recorded AFM images designates the true height information, whereas the lighting in the SEM is selected so that the image will "look good". Therefore, a higher contrast will be selected, even if some points will "oversteer", i.e. become too light or too dark. I the following section we show a couple of example images and what can be extracted from these with a good image processing
Additionaly here two more articles with background information: