AFM Workshop

AFM Curriculum

Atomic force microscopy curriculum is an introduction to the instrumentation of atomic force microscopes, including theory, design, and operation. Standard AFM scanning modes are covered including vibrating and non-vibrating modes.

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Written by Dalia Yablon, Ph.D., Surface Char.

Laboratory–Based Curriculum for Atomic Force Microscopy: Atomic force microscopy to make nanoscale material and topographic measurements of materials.

This comprehensive all-inclusive curriculum introduces students to the technology and instrumentation of atomic force microscopy. The background of the hardware and operating principles are reviewed, including the main modes that will be used in the labs: contact mode, tapping mode, and force spectroscopy.

Important applications of atomic force microscopy are discussed in the context of the laboratory assignments. Image processing, using the freeware Gwyddion, is used for various analyses associated with the labs. The curriculum contains a pre-lab quiz and then analysis/questions for further discussion for each individual laboratory (the answers are provided in the accompanying Teacher Manual). Aside from the AFM instrument, no other material or parts are necessary!

Atomic Force Microscope probe sample collage PM



  • Learn the basic operating principles behind atomic force microscopy.
  • Understand and operate the main modes of AFM: contact mode, tapping mode, force spectroscopy.
  • Operate an AFM to measure topography and compositional differences of a sample on the nanoscale.
  • Conduct basic analysis on images, including statistics and cross-sectional measurements.

Target AudienceIncluded in Curriculum PacketLaboratory Experiments
Undergraduates This curriculum has been developed for undergraduate students in any science or engineering background: biology, chemistry, physics, materials science, mechanical engineering materials engineering, etc. Familiarity with freshman level mathematics and physics concepts is assumed, but all concepts and theory related to atomic force microscopy are explained.
Student Guide

30 page curriculum for students

Covers the background of AFM operation, modes, and application. It then goes through a step-by-step series of labs on contact mode, tapping mode, and force spectroscopy. This section also includes a pre-lab quiz for students as well as suggested analysis questions to be answered in the lab report write-ups.
Teacher Manual

Accompanying Teacher Manual

Accompaniment to student guide, assists teacher/teaching assistant to help students through labs. Includes answers to the pre-lab quiz and detailed answers with sample images to all the suggested analysis questions.
AFM Sample Kit


A series of 4 prepared, mounted samples ready to be inserted into the AFM instrument. Student guide curriculum guides the students through experiments on these samples.
AFM Probe Kit


A series of 8 probes of different spring constants to be used in the curriculum.

Measuring Roughness of Thin Films


Measuring Compositional Heterogeneity of Everyday Materials


Metrological Measurements


Probing Mechanical Properties of a Substrate





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