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Ultramicroscopy. 2000 Mar;81(2):35-40.

Topographic and phase-contrast imaging in atomic force microscopy

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  • 1Department of Applied Physics, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong.


Phase-contrast imaging in the tapping mode atomic force microscopy (AFM) is a powerful method in surface characterization. This method can provide fine details about rough surfaces, which are normally obscured in topographic imaging. To illustrate some of the capabilities of phase-contrast imaging, AFM studies of Pt/Ti/SiO2/Si and Pb(Zr0.52Ti0.48)O3 (PZT) films were carried out. Phase-contrast imaging revealed fine details of their microstructures, including grain boundaries, triple junctions and twinning, which could not be detected by topographic imaging. The studies showed that phase-contrast imaging is capable of providing superior information about surface characteristics when compared to the standard topographic imaging.

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