Macroscopic behavior of materials, whether synthetic or biological, depends on the morphology and characteristics of their microscopic constituents. Improving the performance of engineered materials and understanding the design principles of biomaterials demand tools that can characterize material properties with nanoscale resolution. What is the spatial arrangement of the components of a heterogeneous material? Are the material properties of those components different from their respective bulk properties? How do material properties change near the interfaces? What is the influence of temperature, electric or magnetic fields, or solvents? Answering these questions is of critical importance to the rational design of advanced materials and to the analysis of biological materials. In this chapter, we focus on the recent advances in the measurement and characterization of dynamic nanomechanical properties with high spatial resolution using specially designed atomic force microscope cantilevers. We will first describe the basic operation principles of this method and present results to judge its performance on various material systems.
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