Inverting dynamic force microscopy: From signals to time-resolved interaction forces

Martin Stark, Robert W. Stark, Wolfgang M. Heckl, Reinhard Guckenberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

194 Scopus citations


Transient forces between nanoscale objects on surfaces govern friction, viscous flow, and plastic deformation, occur during manipulation of matter, or mediate the local wetting behavior of thin films. To resolve transient forces on the (sub) microsecond time and nanometer length scale, dynamic atomic force microscopy (AFM) offers largely unexploited potential. Full spectral analysis of the AFM signal completes dynamic AFM. Inverting the signal formation process, we measure the time course of the force effective at the sensing tip. This approach yields rich insight into processes at the tip and dispenses with a priori assumptions about the interaction, as it relies solely on measured data. Force measurements on silicon under ambient conditions demonstrate the distinct signature of the interaction and reveal that peak forces exceeding 200 nN are applied to the sample in a typical imaging situation. These forces are 2 orders of magnitude higher than those in covalent bonds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8473-8478
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number13
StatePublished - 25 Jun 2002
Externally publishedYes


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