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AFM for Nanomechanical Measurements

Atomic force microscopy modulus map of a solder lead-tin alloy

Nanoscale mechanical properties are a key consideration in many applications, and atomic force microscopy is one of the only tools capable of measuring them. The NanomechPro™ Toolkit for Asylum Research AFMs lets you measure nanoscale mechanical properties on everything from cells to ceramics. This collection of techniques can accurately evaluate a wide range of nanomechanical behavior including elastic and viscous properties, adhesive forces, and hardness. The multiple techniques in the NanomechPro Toolkit offer greater flexibility for different applications and allow deeper insight through comparison of results. With exclusive modes that enable faster measurements of more properties, the NanomechPro Toolkit contains features for both the Cypher™ and MFP-3D™ family atomic force microscopes.

With the Interferometric Displacement Sensor (IDS) option for the Cypher AFM, nanomechanical characterization modes are now even more quantitative. With traditional optical beam deflection (OBD) detection, the OBD signal can be misinterpreted when the cantilever deviates from its expected or modelled shape. In contrast, the IDS provides an absolute measure of cantilever amplitude and deflection, improving accuracy for multi-frequency techniques, mode shape mapping, tip-sample contact mechanics, and on-and-off resonance contact techniques. Learn more from the white paper found in the gray tab below.

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Force Curves / Force Volume

  • Classic quasistatic method where force versus distance curves are used to provide quantitative sample information such as modulus, hardness, and adhesion

Fast Force Mapping (FFM)

  • Force versus distance mapping mode that operates up to a pixel rate of 300-1000 Hz and provides modulus, adhesion, plasticity, and other calculated properties

Amplitude Modulation-Frequency Modulation Viscoelastic Mapping (AM-FM)

  • Quantitative bimodal tapping mode measures tip-sample contact stiffness, loss tangent, and calculates elastic modulus (E’) using the Hertz model

Contact Resonance Viscoelastic Mapping (CR-AFM)

  • Contact mode imaging measurement of storage (E’) and loss (E”) moduli

Dual AC imaging

  • Qualitative bimodal tapping mode provides contrast depending on material stiffness and viscoelasticity

Loss Tangent imaging

  • Tapping mode imaging that quantifies phase data in terms of dissipated to stored energy, also known as tan δ

Force Modulation Imaging

  • Qualitative contact mode technique that measures sample deformation and provides dissipation

Force Curves / Force Volume

  • Compare elasticity of treated versus untreated biological tissues
  • Provide 2D force volume modulus maps of cells
  • Characterize mechanical properties of hydrogels


  • Quantitative force curve analysis using Hertz, JKR, DMT, and Oliver-Pharr models
  • Modulus comparison of polymeric samples while tracking sample topography


  • Local mechanical characterization of high stiffness materials
  • Steel blade, carbide, and diamond-like material modulus comparisons
  • Provides quantitative modulus of materials such as wood and bones


  • Fast, gentle, and high resolution nanomechanical information
  • Viscoelastic properties of materials ranging from cells to polymers to alloys and ceramics
  • Dissipation and elastic modulus of amyloid fibers, dielectrics, and patterned surfaces
  • Identification of polymers (PS, PE, HDPE, …) in multilayer “sandwich” materials

Dual AC imaging

  • Provides contrast on tire rubber blends
  • Visualize materials composition and components such as nanocomposites and polymer blends

Loss Tangent imaging

  • Identify barrier layers in commercial packaging materials
  • Show contrast on a range of viscoelastic materials such as polymers, composites and alloys

"Probing the swelling-dependent mechanical and transport properties of polyacrylamide hydrogels through AFM-based dynamic nanoindentation," Y. Lai and Y. Hu, Soft Matter 14, 2619 (2018).

"Controlling the mechanoelasticity of model biomembranes with room-temperature ionic liquids," C> Rotella, P. Kumari, B. J. Rodriguez, S. P. Jarvis, and A. Benedetto, Biophys. Rev. 10, 751 (2018).

"Tendon exhibits complex poroelastic behavior at the nanoscale as revealed by high-frequency AFM-based rheology," B. K. Connizzo and A. J. Grodzinsky, J. Biomech. 54, 11 (2017).

"Polymer nanomechanics: Separating the size effect from the substrate effect in nanoindentation," L. Li, L. M. Encarnacao, and K. A. Brown, Appl. Phys. Lett. 110, 043105 (2017).

"Mechanical properties of highly porous super liquid‐repellent surfaces," M. Paven, R. Fuchs, T. Yakabe, D.,Vollmer, M. Kappl, A. N. Itakura, and H.-J. Butt, Adv. Funct. Mater. 26, 4914 (2016).

"Practical loss tangent imaging with amplitude-modulated atomic force microscopy," R. Proksch, M. Kocun, D. Hurley, M. Viani, A. Labuda, W. Meinhold, and J. Bemis, J. Appl. Phys. 119, 134901 (2016).

"Fast, quantitative AFM nanomechanical measurements using AM-FM Viscoelastic Mapping mode," D. Hurley, M. Kocun, I. Revenko, B. Ohler, and R. Proksch, Microscopy and Analysis 29, 9 (2015). Download Here

"Contact resonance atomic force microscopy imaging in air and water using photothermal excitation," M. Kocun, A. Labuda, A. Gannepalli, and R. Proksch, Rev. Sci. Instrum. 86, 083706 (2015).

"Predictive modelling-based design and experiments for synthesis and spinning of bioinspired silk fibres," S. Lin, S. Ryu, O. Tokareva, G. Gronau, M. M. Jacobsen, W. Huang, D. J. Rizzo, D. Li, C. Staii, N. M. Pugno, J. Y. Wong, D. L. Kaplan, and M. J. Buehler, Nat. Comm. 6, 6892 (2015).

"Nano-rheology of hydrogels using direct drive force modulation atomic force microscopy," P. C. Nalam, N. N. Gosvami, M. A. Caporizzo, R. J. Composto, and R. W. Carpick, Soft Matter 11, 8165 (2015).

"Fast nanomechanical spectroscopy of soft matter," E. T. Herruzo, A. P. Perrino, and R. Garcia, Nat. Commun. 5, 3126 (2014).

"High intrinsic mechanical flexibility of mouse prion nanofibrils revealed by measurements of axial and radial Young's moduli," G. Lamour, C. K. Yip, H. Li, and J. Gsponer, ACS Nano 8, 3851 (2014).

"Quantifying cell-to-cell variation in power-law rheology," P. Cai, Y. Mizutani, M. Tsuchiya, J. M. Maloney, B. Fabry, K. J. V. Vliet, and T. Okajima, Biophys. J. 105, 1093 (2013).

"Nanomechanical mapping of soft matter by bimodal force microscopy," R. Garcia and R. Proksch, Eur. Polym. J. 49, 1897 (2013).

"Loss tangent imaging: Theory and simulations of repulsive-mode tapping atomic force microscopy," R. Proksch and D. G. Yablon, Appl. Phys. Lett. 100, 073106 (2012).

"Mapping nanoscale elasticity and dissipation using dual frequency contact resonance AFM," A. Gannepalli, D. G. Yablon, A. H. Tsou, and R. Proksch, Nanotechnology 22, 355705 (2011).

"Mapping nanomechanical properties of live cells using multi-harmonic atomic force microscopy," A. Raman, S. Trigueros, A. Cartagena, A. P. Z. Stevenson, M. Susilo, E. Nauman, and S. A. Contera, Nat. Nanotechnol. 6, 809 (2011).

"Viscoelastic property mapping with contact resonance force microscopy," J. P. Killgore, D. G. Yablon, A. Tsou, A. Gannepalli, P. Yuya, J. Turner, R. Proksch, and D. C. Hurley, Langmuir 27, 13983 (2011).

"Mechanical properties of face-centered cubic supercrystals of nanocrystals," E. Tam, P. Podsiadlo, E. Shevchenko, D. F. Ogletree, M.-P. Delplancke-Ogletree, and P. D. Ashby, Nano Lett. 10, 2363 (2010).

"Tuning the elastic modulus of hydrated collagen fibrils," C. A. Grant, D. J. Brockwell, S. E. Radford, and N. H. Thomson, Biophys. J. 97, 2985 (2009).

"Vascular smooth muscle cell durotaxis depends on substrate stiffness gradient strength," B. C. Isenberg, P. A. DiMilla, M. Walker, S. Kim, and J. Y. Wong, Biophys. J. 97, 1313 (2009).

"Surface viscoelasticity of individual gram-negative bacterial cells measured using atomic force microscopy," V. Vadillo-Rodriguez, T. J. Beveridge, and J. R. Dutcher, J. Bacteriol. 190, 4225-4232 (2008).

"A thin-layer model for viscoelastic, stress-relaxation testing of cells using atomic force microscopy: Do cell properties reflect metastatic potential?" E. M. Darling, S. Zauscher, J. A. Block, and F. Guilak, Biophys. J. 92, 1784 (2007).

"Packing density and structural heterogeneity of insulin amyloid fibrils measured by AFM nanoindentation," S. Guo, and B. B. Akhremitchev, Biomacromolecules 7, 1630 (2006).

"Multifrequency, repulsive-mode amplitude-modulated atomic force microscopy," R. Proksch, Appl. Phys. Lett. 89, 113121 (2006).