NC-AFM and related techniques

Noncontact atomic force microscopy (nc-AFM) and related experimental techniques emerged about 20 years ago and have since then taken a dramatic development. Having branched into a multitude of experimental tools nc-AFM is now indispensable in many fields of surface science and nanoscience. By nc-AFM, the structure of surfaces, in particular of insulating character, can be studied at the nanometre and and atomic scales. Imaging with atomic resolution is often complemented by force spectroscopy allowing to obtain detailed information about the interaction between the tip and surface atoms. Furthermore, it is now possible to precisely manipulate atoms, molecules and clusters by the action of the force microscopy tip making nc-AFM a tool for nanostructuring surfaces. Besides the possibility of investigating electrically insulating surfaces, the strength of nc-AFM is the versatility of related methods and applications like magnetic force microscopy (MFM), electrostatic force microscopy (EFM) and Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM), the latter two allowing the study of local work function and charge/dipole distributions providing some chemical specificity.

The main objective of the Summer School is to teach the basics of nc-AFM and related techniques like KPFM and starting from this basis to provide a deeper insight into specific fields on a high scientific level. The teaching will not only include the foundations and theory of the techniques but it will also demonstrate their potential and applications. The Summer School will have a multi-disciplinary character as the discussed techniques have equally important application in fields like surface physics and chemistry and nanoscience.

Students will have the opportunity to present their work as an oral or a poster presentation.

Target audience

The Summer School addresses PhD students, post-docs and generally researchers with an interest to be acquainted with nc-AFM and related techniques or who wish to extend their knowledge in this field. Furthermore, it is open to Bachelor and Master students with an intention to enter the nc-AFM community. Imposed by the funding institutions, participants from France and Germany are given priority. The official language will be English.


The lectures will cover basics:

Principles and techniques of nc-AFM, KPFM, EFM and MFM
Characterization of cantilevers and tuning fork sensors
nc-AFM instrumental optimization
Imaging and force spectroscopy
Image contrast formation and interpretation
Modelling tip-surface interactions, nc-AFM instrumentation (virtual AFM)

and prominent applications:

Imaging insulating surfaces and supported molecules
Extremely high resolution (orbital imaging)
Imaging intra-molecular structures
Atomic and molecular manipulation
Characterizing materials for photovoltaic applications
Imaging magnetic structures
Force detection of single electron tunneling
Imaging and force detection work function differences on surfaces
Detection of charged nano-objects
Charge manipulation of nano-objects

Top of the page arrow


The Summer School comprises five types of activities, lecture courses, student oral presentations, student poster presentations, demonstrations from companies and general scientific discussions.

12 educational lectures on a high level will be given by experienced scientists. Each lecture will take 90 minutes including time for questions an discussion contributions from the audience.

8 to 12 oral presentations with a length of 15-30 minutes (depending on the number of students) will be given by young researchers (PhD students and post-docs) communicating their recent scientific results obtained with nc-AFM or a related technique.

In 2 poster sessions, young researchers will have the opportunity to present their latest scientific results and to discuss in depth with their colleagues and the lecturers.

Open discussions will be a key element during the entire week of the Summer School. We plan in particular for long breaks in the afternoon. Here, we will give the participants the opportunity to ask the lecturers questions, to discuss several aspects with respect to nc-AFM techniques, general perspectives and to exchange ideas and experience in specific work areas.

Frequently-Asked-Question (FAQ) session - During the Summer School the participants will have the opportunity in a Frequently-Asked-Question session of 90 minutes to ask the lecturers most urgent questions related to nc-AFM and related experimental techniques. In order to gather and sort the questions we kindly ask the participants to fill out this template and to send it to us.

Presentations of companies. We give nc-AFM related companies the possibility to present their products and to introduce new features and software. The objective is to inform the researchers about the latest commercial nc-AFM systems and to initiate discussions with company representatives.

Three nc-AFM awards. The best three young researches will obtain awards for their oral+poster or only poster presentations.

                                                                    1st place    : 300 Euros
                                                                    2nd place   : 200 Euros
                                                                    3rd place    : 100 Euros

Jurors will be the members of the scientific committee, who will sign a Master of nc-AFM certificate.

Top of the page arrow

nc-AFM award