Atomic Force Microscopes from Asylum Research Guide the Development of Thin Film Deposition and Etch Processes
27 August 2015
August 28, 2015 - Thin films are ubiquitous in materials science and technology, with uses ranging from exotic next generation materials (e.g. ferroelectric data storage) to practical everyday items (e.g. food wrappers). The intrinsic dimensions of thin films (thickness, grain and domain sizes, etc.) and the strong dependence of performance on film properties demand tools with nanoscale resolution. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) has long been used to measure thin film roughness and uniformity, and that remains one of the most common measurements made with AFM today. As materials become more complex, AFMs are also being used to characterize the functionality of thin films, including their mechanical, electrical, electro-mechanical, and magnetic properties. A new application note from Oxford Instruments Asylum Research titled “AFM Characterization of Thin Films: High Resolution Topography and Functional Properties” describes the many ways that Asylum Research AFMs are being used in this field and highlights several real-world examples where the AFM contributes directly actionable information that can help guide research and development of thin film materials.
“AFM measurements of thin films have become so common over the last twenty years that many people have begun to think of them as routine tasks within the capability of any old AFM,” said Dr. Ben Ohler, Director of Marketing at Oxford Instruments Asylum Research. “This mindset overlooks the reality that many thin films are shrinking in dimensions and growing more sophisticated in functionality. Film roughness can now be within the noise floor of first-generation AFMs. Film morphology is often inadequate to predict performance, which might depend more strongly on nanoelectrical or nanomechanical properties. Asylum Research AFMs offer higher performance and advanced imaging modes to provide more comprehensive information about these materials. Our AFMs today are also dramatically simpler to use and more productive than the AFMs you more commonly find in film deposition and etch facilities.”
Image below: Topography image shown in 3D of crystalline domains in a non-planar phthalocyanine film grown on a highly ordered pyrolitic graphite substrate. Phthalocyanine is of interest for potential applications as an organic semiconductor, 25 µm scan. Image courtesy of Luke Rochford, University of Warwick.