"Beyond Topography: New Advances in AFM Characterization of Polymers"
Presented in conjunction with the MRS OnDemand® Webinar Series

This webinar was first presented live on May 28, 2015

Whether investigating fundamental research principles or engineering a specific product, the atomic force microscope (AFM) is a key instrument for evaluating polymers and polymer blends. Its spatial resolution enables visualization of sub-micrometer and sub-nanometer morphology and structure. However, recent advances mean that AFMs can also measure the physical properties and functional behavior of polymers at small length scales. In addition to familiar topographic imaging, AFMs can probe molecular-level forces; map mechanical, thermal, and electrical properties; and assess solvent and thermal effects in near real time. This webinar provides an overview of the AFM’s powerful capabilities for polymers characterization and will cover:


  • AFM methods for fast topographic imaging, even in liquids and at high temperatures
  • Recent advances in viscoelastic measurements
  • Nanomechanical mapping of rubber blends
  • AFM techniques to probe electrical and functional behavior

About Your Lecturers 

Dr. Donna Hurley is a consultant in AFM measurement techniques and their application to materials science. Until 2014 she was a senior scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. There, she led a team to develop and apply contact resonance AFM techniques for nanomechanical mapping of materials. She has a Ph.D. in Condensed Matter Physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Dr. Anna Kepas-Suwara joined the Advanced Material and Product Development Unit at TARRC as a Senior Materials Scientist in 2008. Since then, she has been involved in AFM and nanoindentation studies of rubber compounds. Her research interests involve visualization of materials’ structure under strain, relaxation phenomena in polymers, and nanomechanical mapping of polymers and polymer blends. She received her Ph.D. in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry from the University of Wroclaw (Poland) in 2007.



Image Captions

Epoxy bond line between two elastomers. Here, a thin epoxy layer joins two elastomeric materials with very similar elastic moduli. Though the epoxy is readily distinguished by its higher E', only the higher tan δ identifies the elastomer selected for its damping characteristics (marked with the triangle). Scan size is 25 μm.

This sample is a blend of natural rubber, polybutadiene rubber, and zinc oxide. The elastic response distinguishes all three materials, but the zinc oxide inclusions (circles) stand out more clearly by their much lower loss tangent. Scan size is 5 μm. Images courtesy of Dr. Anna Kepas-Suwara, Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre, UK.

Multilayer food packaging material (coffee bag) consisting of an aluminum barrier layer sandwiched between two polymer layers. Scan size is 15 μm.