icroscope) A device used to image materials at the atomic level. AFMs are used to solve processing and materials problems in electronics, telecom, biology and other high-tech industries. Invented by IBM in 1986, it uses a ceramic or semiconductor tip one atom wide positioned at the end of a cantilevered bar. As the tip is moved over the material, it either continously touches or periodically taps the surface and bends as it is repelled or attracted to the structure. A laser picks up the deflections.
In contrast to a scanning tunneling microscope (STM), which sends current to the surface being measured, AFMs can be used to image non-conductive materials. See probe storage