Scanning probe microscopy

Ke Bian, Christoph Gerber, Andreas J. Heinrich, Daniel J. Müller, Simon Scheuring, Ying Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


Scanning probe microscopy (SPM), a key invention in nanoscience, has by now been extended to a wide spectrum of basic and applied fields. Its application to basic science led to a paradigm shift in the understanding and perception of matter at its nanoscopic and even atomic levels. SPM uses a sharp tip to physically raster-scan samples and locally collect information from the surface. Various signals can be directly detected by SPM in real space with atomic or nanoscale resolution, which provides insights into the structural, electronic, vibrational, optical, magnetic, (bio)chemical and mechanical properties. This Primer introduces the key aspects and general features of SPM and SPM set-up and variations, with particular focus on scanning tunnelling microscopy and atomic force microscopy. We outline how to conduct SPM experiments, as well as data analysis of SPM imaging, spectroscopy and manipulation. Recent applications of SPM to physics, chemistry, materials science and biology are then highlighted, with representative examples. We outline issues with reproducibility, and standards on open data are discussed. This Primer also raises awareness of the ongoing challenges and possible ways to overcome these difficulties, followed by an outlook of future possible directions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number36
JournalNature Reviews Methods Primers
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
K.B. and Y.J. acknowledge support from the National Key R&D Program (Grant Nos 2016YFA0300901 and 2017YFA0205003), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos 11888101, 11634001 and 21725302), the Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. XDB28000000) and Beijing Municipal Science & Technology Commission (Grant No. Z181100004218006). C.G. acknowledges support from Swiss Nanoscience Institute (SNI), University of Basel. A.J.H. acknowledges support from the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) (Grant No. R027-D1). D.J.M. acknowledges support from the Swiss National Science Foundation (NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering) and the ETH Zurich (Grant ETH-20 17-2). S.S acknowledges the support from a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Pioneer Award (DP1AT010874 from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)) and a NIH Research Project Grant (RO1NS110790 from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, Springer Nature Limited.


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