Ultrasonic Force Microscopies

Part of the NanoScience and Technology book series (NANO)


Ultrasonic Force Microscopy, or UFM, allows combination of two apparently mutually exclusive requirements for the nanomechanical probe—high stiffness for the efficient indentation and high mechanical compliance that brings force sensitivity. Somewhat inventively, UFM allows to combine these two virtues in the same cantilever by using indention of the sample at high frequency, when cantilever is very rigid, but detecting the result of this indention at much lower frequency. That is made possible due to the extreme nonlinearity of the nanoscale tip-surface junction force-distance dependence, that acts as “mechanical diode” detecting ultrasound in AFM. After introducing UFM principles, we discuss features of experimental UFM implementation, and the theory of contrast in this mode, progressing to quantitative measurements of contact stiffness. A variety of UFM applications ranging from semiconductor quantum nanostructures, graphene, very large scale integrated circuits, and reinforced ceramics to polymer composites and biological materials is presented via comprehensive imaging gallery accompanied by the guidance for the optimal UFM measurements of these materials. We also address effects of adhesion and topography on the elasticity imaging and the approaches for reducing artifacts connected with these effects. This is complemented by another extremely useful feature of UFM—ultrasound induced superlubricity that allows damage free imaging of materials ranging from stiff solid state devices and graphene to biological materials. Finally, we proceed to the exploration of time-resolved nanoscale phenomena using nonlinear mixing of multiple vibration frequencies in ultrasonic AFM—Heterodyne Force Microscopy, or HFM, that also include mixing of ultrasonic vibration with other periodic physical excitations, eg. electrical, photothermal, etc. Significant section of the chapter analyzes the ability of UFM and HFM to detect subsurface mechanical inhomogeneities, as well as describes related sample preparation methods on the example of subsurface imaging of nanostructures and iii–v quantum dots.


Atomic Force Microscope Ultrasonic Vibration Scanning Probe Microscopy Contact Stiffness Threshold Amplitude 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Authors would like to thank all those who have collaborated with us in the development of UFM and related techniques, in particular Franco Dinelli, Kazushi Yamanaka, Teresa Cuberes, Bryan Huey, OliverWright, Walter Arnold, Nancy Burnham, Martin Castell, Gerard Germaud, Andrew Kulik, Tony Krier, Manus Hayne, Alex Robson, Mohammed Henini, and Hubert Pollock and OVK would like to thank his wife Tatiana and daughter Ksenia for tremendous and much needed support while preparing this manuscript. Part of material used in this chapter is based on the material from Acoustic Microscopy, 2nd edition by G.A.D. Briggs and O. V. Kolosov (2010), reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsLancaster UniversityLancasterUK
  2. 2.Oxford UniversityOxfordUK

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