Polymers have been widely used in most fields of science and industry for various purposes due to their unique properties. Implementing polymer materials with different structures and functions (i.e., block copolymers, bulk polymers, thin-film polymers, polymer composites and polymer blends) requires profound understanding of how structures, properties, processing and performance are related. The surface information provided with micro- and nano-scale resolution facilitates better understanding of these effects, as well as creating multifunctional polymers for new applications.
The atomic force microscope (AFM) is one of the most essential tools for surface characterization of polymer materials, alongside optical microscopy and electron microscopy (i.e., scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy). Comparatively, AFM provides specific advantages over other microscopies in several ways and has been extensively used to provide nanoscale information on various physical properties and performances in addition to morphological imaging of polymer materials. It provides mechanical source contrast between the tip and sample, in which situations that electron or photon based microscopies can hardly achieve or even fail. The universal character of attractive and repulsive forces between the tip and the sample are employed in AFM for surface analysis, facilitating the examination of polymer materials without disturbance of their integrity, even at very high resolution. AFM has developed into a powerful technique ideal for characterization of topography, adhesion, hardness and multiple other surface properties at micro/nano-scales.
This application note describes the major capabilities and advantages of the Keysight Technologies, Inc. 9500 AFM for high-resolution polymer characterization.