High-speed atomic force microscope imaging: Adaptive multiloop mode

Juan Ren, Qingze Zou, Bo Li, Zhiqun Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


In this paper, an imaging mode (called the adaptive multiloop mode) of atomic force microscope (AFM) is proposed to substantially increase the speed of tapping mode (TM) imaging while preserving the advantages of TM imaging over contact mode (CM) imaging. Due to its superior image quality and less sample disturbances over CM imaging, particularly for soft materials such as polymers, TM imaging is currently the most widely used imaging technique. The speed of TM imaging, however, is substantially (over an order of magnitude) lower than that of CM imaging, becoming the major bottleneck of this technique. Increasing the speed of TM imaging is challenging as a stable probe tapping on the sample surface must be maintained to preserve the image quality, whereas the probe tapping is rather sensitive to the sample topography variation. As a result, the increase of imaging speed can quickly lead to loss of the probe-sample contact and/or annihilation of the probe tapping, resulting in image distortion and/or sample deformation. The proposed adaptive multiloop mode (AMLM) imaging overcomes these limitations of TM imaging through the following three efforts integrated together: First, it is proposed to account for the variation of the TM deflection when quantifying the sample topography; second, an inner-outer feedback control loop to regulate the TM deflection is added on top of the tapping-feedback control loop to improve the sample topography tracking; and, third, an online iterative feedforward controller is augmented to the whole control system to further enhance the topography tracking, where the next-line sample topography is predicted and utilized to reduce the tracking error. The added feedback regulation of the TM deflection ensures the probe-sample interaction force remains near the minimum for maintaining a stable probe-sample interaction. The proposed AMLM imaging is tested and demonstrated by imaging a poly(tert-butyl acrylate) sample in experiments. The experimental results demonstrate that the image quality achieved by using the proposed AMLM imaging at a scan rate of 25 Hz and over a large-size imaging (50 μm×25 μm) is at the same level of that obtained using TM imaging at 1 Hz, while the probe-sample interaction force is noticeably reduced from that achieved using TM imaging at 2.5 Hz.

Original languageEnglish
Article number012405
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 28 Jul 2014


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