nanoHUB-U: Fundamentals of Atomic Force Microscopy, Part 2: Dynamic AFM Methods

A two-part series of online courses covering the principles and practice of atomic force microscopy.

  1. atomic force microscopy (AFM)
  2. dynamic AFM
  3. Frequency Modulation AFM
  4. materials science
  5. nanoHUB-U
  6. NCN Group - Characterization and Metrology
  7. NCN Group - Materials Science
  8. tapping mode AFM
  9. VEDA - Virtual Environment for Dynamic AFM


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Professors Arvind Raman and Ron Reifenberger have developed two web-based courses in response to enthusiastic feedback received for video lectures posted on that discussed all aspects of scanning probe microscopy (SPM). The original video lectures have attracted over 7,000 viewers worldwide. The course content has been refined and condensed from the original full-semester course offered at Purdue University beginning in 2009 into two, self-paced online courses. The courses develop a unified framework for understanding the multifaceted aspects of atomic force microscopy.

The course material of Fundamentals of Atomic Force Microscopy, Part 1: Fundamental Aspects of AFM is available as a self-paced class taken online.

Scientific Overview Video

Course Objectives

The atomic force microscope (AFM) is a key enabler of nanotechnology, and a proper understanding of how this instrument operates requires a broad-based background in many disciplines. Few users of AFM have the opportunity or resources to rapidly acquire the interdisciplinary knowledge that allows an intelligent operation of this instrument. This focused, in-depth course solves this problem by presenting a unified discussion of the fundamentals of atomic force microscopy. By registering for this course, students will be exposed to the knowledge base required to understand how an AFM operates.

Fundamentals of Atomic Force Microscopy, Part 2: Dynamic AFM Methods provides an in-depth treatment of dynamic mode AFM.

Who Should Take the Courses

As the use of AFM expands, there must be a greater understanding of AFM techniques at all levels to better appreciate how AFM can be used for any particular application. Those requiring more than an entry-level understanding of AFM might include:

  • Graduate students beginning a research topic involving AFM
  • Continuing-education professionals
  • Scientists and engineers involved in commercial or industrial R&D


The online course is intended to be broadly accessible to beginning graduate students in any branch of science or engineering.

Fundamentals of Atomic Force Microscopy, Part 2: Dynamic AFM Methods builds on the Fundamentals of Atomic Force Microscopy, Part 1 course and requires familiarity with eigenvalue problems as well as calculus and partial differential equations.

Course Outline

Preview the lectures below, or join the course by clicking the yellow button on the right and entering your nanoHUB login information!

Week 1: Point Mass Model of Dynamic AFM

  • L1.1: – Introduction to Dynamic AFM
  • L1.2: – The Point Mass Oscillator Model
  • L1.3: – Frequency Response
  • L1.4: – Calibrating Effective Properties
  • L1.5: – Conservative and Dissipative Interaction Forces
  • L1.6: – Interacting with the Surface

Week 2: Analytical Theory of Dynamic AFM

  • L2.1: – Excited Probe Interacting with Sample/Linear Theory
  • L2.2: – Introduction to Amplitude and Frequency Modulation AFM
  • L2.3: – Excited Probe Interacting with Sample/Nonlinearity, Virial and Dissipation
  • L2.4: – Connections Between Amplitude Reduction, Phase, Frequency Shift and Excitation
  • L2.5: – Attractive and Repulsive Regimes and Phase Contrast Modulation AFM
  • L2.6: – Average and Peak Forces in Amplitude Modulation AFM

Week 3: Simulating Dynamic AFM using VEDA

  • L3.1: – Introductiion to VEDA/Dynamic Approach Curves I
  • L3.2: – Introductiion to VEDA/Dynamic Approach Curves II
  • L3.3: – Tapping Mode Scanning Tool/Feedback Controls for Scanning
  • L3.4: – Scanning Instabilities in Tapping Mode
  • L3.5: – Phase Contrast in Tapping Mode Scans in VEDA
  • L3.6: – Frequency Modulation AFM in VEDA

Week 4: Reconstructing Surface Forces

  • L4.1: – Relationship between Frequency Shift and Potential Energy
  • L4.2: – Reconstruction of Interaction Force from Frequency Shift in FM-AFM
  • L4.3: – Experimental Details
  • L4.4: – Key Experimental Results in FM-AFM I]
  • L4.5: – Key Experimental Results in FM-AFM II
  • L4.6: – Further Results on Force Spectroscopy

Week 5: Dynamic AFM for Electrostatics/Magnetic/Biology

  • L5.1: – Measuring Electrostatic Forces I
  • L5.2: – Measuring Electrostatic Forces II
  • L5.3: – Measuring Magnetic Forces
  • L5.4: – Dynamic AFM in Liquids I
  • L5.5: – Dynamic AFM in Liquids II
  • L5.6: – Trends and Overview

Course Resources

  • A account is required. Sign up for free now!
  • Prerecorded video lectures distilling the essential concepts of dynamic AFM methods into a concise, five-week module.
  • Homework exercises with solutions and homework tutorials.
  • Online quizzes to quickly assess understanding of material after each video lecture.
  • An online forum, hosted by nanoHUB. Students enrolled in the course will be able to interact with one another.
  • Exams for each weekly module. Once a student starts a test, the student will have two hours to complete it. The tests are scored instantly.

 Fundamentals of Atomic Force Microscopy, Part 2: Dynamic AFM Methods first published on nanoHUB-U, July 2013.


This self-paced course is available at no cost to anyone with a account.

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