Measuring on the Nanoscale – A Whole New World in Materials Science

Measuring materials properly involves comparing the characteristics of test structures to the real internal properties of the materials at hand. If there are plenty of differences in the materials when examined on a nano scale using atomic force microscopy, then the fundamental understanding of structure-property relationships is easily strengthened.

Scientists who are skilled in the knowledge of the general principles of nano scale measures, as well as the various approaches to nanofabrication are able to research both nanostructure materials and interpret electrical measurements as well. Atomic force microscopy makes studying probe-sample interactions a breeze, and thankfully the continued improvement of these machines keeps them relevant. Not only that, but more techniques are being developed to further its worth. One example is that it’s not just used to measure characteristics, but also in detecting any material that is bothering a sample’s effectiveness.

The fact that atomic force microscopy uses both contact and noncontact methods of measurement helps scientists gather evidence that they couldn’t otherwise.


Recent studies of MEMS (microelectromechanical) and NEMS (nanoelectromechanical) systems enable those in the materials science industries to build more reliable devices. They are using ion-beam and laser machining, lithography and deep-ion etching on test specimens to name a few.

Measuring properties on ultra-small scales is made possible without the use of specialty tools as long as the right machine is used. There are little variations in results using a top-of-the-line AFM (Atomic Force Microscope).

Theta Geometry

Using theta geometry is one of the more popular ways materials scientists are measuring with atomic force microscopy. It’s a simple method in which the test specimen is diametrically compressed using what is called Nano indentation. This method produces a central section with uniform tension.


This method of examination is used to connect mechanical tests and results to conditions set forth in fabrication. Studying fracture surfaces of materials on a nanoscale can determine the cause of failure within a system and help fix and prevent it from happening in the future.

DRIE (Deep Reactive Ion Etching)

This process performs deep penetration, trenches and steep holes into silicon and other substrates. The method was developed for use with MEMS. Walls created are only slightly tapered using this process so it is quite reliable.

Progress Continues

Etching and lithographic processes typically leave stresses, chemical remnants and other residual surface features that directly affect the strength of the component at hand. Scientists are still studying how the surface of specimens interact with various loads and any deformities that are made during operation.

Failure and overall lifetime is most certainly affected, but it’s still not known exactly how. This is why studies continue, and new mechanical methods and tests developed will help measure materials properties on the nano scale with atomic force microscopy. This is definitely required to make any headway.

More on Nano technology

Nanotechnology is still considered a new type science. It includes fields of biology, physics, chemistry, engineering and of course materials science that when studied on the nano scale open up a whole new world to scientists. Working on the nanoscale is better understood when one knows the dimensions and types of materials considered nanoscale. They included tubes, films, flakes, shells, wires and other similar particles.

Being able to easily see and manipulate these particles with ease allows professionals to examine any special properties they have. That’s why the invention and continual use of atomic force microscopy is so important. Obtaining a dependable AFM for scientific studies puts a materials science lab at the forefront of technology and allows them to improve processes and equipment in the most modern ways possible.

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