Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM)

Our AFM facility at Surface Analysis Center has three different AFM setups with different scanning ranges and controlled environment options.


Photos of the three different AFM setups

We provide our service to the University of Maryland, industry, federal labs and numerous academic institutions.

Becoming a user of the AFM

1. Schedule training

  • Basic Training: Standard operation of the microscope in either tapping or contact mode is covered in detail. During the supervised training, users are taught to image using a standard calibration grid. The AFM training takes around 3 hours. Users are strongly recommended to practice immediately after the training.
  • Advanced Training: A number of techniques can be covered in the advanced training, including: environmental AFM, C-AFM, electrochemical AFM, fluid imaging and Force Mapping. At least 5 hours must be logged on the instrument before advanced training may be taken.

2. Complete the following forms signed by your advisor/PI with correct FRS number and are required to return to SAC before the training starts

3. Register on the NanoCenter website – once trained you will be able to sign-up for time
4. AFM training for each person will cost $100 in addition to the training hours billing.
Signup calendar
Click on register to create login

Rules for using the AFM

1. Only authorized users (users after training) are permitted to use the instrument.
2. Users of the instrument are expected to keep the instrument neat and tidy.
3. Users are NOT permitted to disconnect connections or remove parts. If the user needs to make changes to the standard instrument setup, they need to contact Dr. Karen Gaskell.
4. Users are required to make a reservation if they need to use the instrument. Users are NOT permitted to use the instrument without a reservation.
5. Users are not permitted to use the instrument beyond the reserved time without extending their reservations, provided there is no one else reserved.
6. If you have made a reservation to use the instrument and if another user is occupying the instrument, you have the right to ask them to leave.
7. Regular users will bring their own AFM tips once they are trained to use it.
8. If you have any questions or concerns regarding these rules, please contact Dr. Karen Gaskell.

AFM probes/supplies available in facility for a charge

  • SiN contact probe (<15 nm tip radius)
  • Si tapping probe (< 10 nm tip radius)
  • Arrow UHF – high speed tapping
  • 15 mm specimen discs
  • 12 mm glass sample mount
  • 9.9 mm mica discs (interleafed)
  • Gel-pak box for storing probes


Dr. Karen Gaskell
Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry Room B0505
University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742
Phone 301.405.4999 Fax 301.314.2600